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Tips & Techniques to Get You Back to Full Strength


Dana Tress 
November 17, 2020

We are seeing more people in the clinic complaining about increased jaw pain, which we refer to as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) or TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction).  In fact, I have even noticed this happening more frequently to myself, and I have never had a history of jaw pain or dysfunction. 

I began to notice soreness on the right side of my face, in front of my ear, that was constantly present.  I was still able to eat normally, and there was no clicking or popping sensation in my jaw when I chewed food, talked or yawned.  But, this nagging soreness lingered on and, when it got bad, would even give me a slight headache on the right side of my head.  I realized that I was starting to feel like so many of my TMD patients that come in to see me!

It occurred to me one day at work that I would protrude my jaw (push my jaw forward) while I was wearing my mask (which is all day!).  I know that I was not performing this movement consciously, but I definitely noticed that if I was wearing a mask that was a bit tighter than others or if it was too loose, I would protrude my mandible (jaw bone).  Also, I felt like I was able to breathe better if I was able to push the mask farther away from my face with my jaw.  Have you noticed these habits yourself?

Once I realized what I was doing, it became much easier to “treat” myself, and to make suggestions to my patients who are struggling with TMD themselves.  Here are a few things that I recommend:

  • Make sure you are wearing a mask that is properly fitting your face
  • Allow yourself short “mask breaks” during the day if you are wearing one all day while at work 
  • If the earloops of a mask are too tight or irritating to you, try a mask with long strings that can tie behind your head instead, or use a toggle to secure your ear-loops behind your head instead of behind your ears
  • Gently massage your jaw for 1-2 minutes several times per day to help the muscles around the joint relax
  • Be mindful of your overall posture throughout the day to limit slouching and allowing your whole head to sag forward
  • Use deep breathing and relaxation techniques throughout the day (the pandemic is adding even more stress to our normal life stressors, so we do not need to clench our teeth or have the side effects of stress affect our jaws and rest of our bodies)

If you are continuing to feel increased pain in your jaw, face, or headaches, make sure to not wait to get it looked at.  We are always here to help you out and answer any of your questions in person or virtually!

Dana Tress
Meet the Author
Dana Tress, PT, CEAS, AIB-CON is a physical therapist specializing in the management of concussion, balance dysfunction, headaches and dizziness in Crystal Lake, Illinois at Smith Physical Therapy Balance + Concussion Center, an award winner in concierge physical therapy services for McHenry County and surrounding regions.