By WIN Provider: Dr. Conner Overstrom, Chiropractor
Over the past year and a half our lives have changed drastically. Social distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing have become the new norm (although hand washing should have already been the norm). Since the onset of the pandemic I have heard many people having issues with jaw pain. Jaw pain, better known as TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) can be caused by various factors, but two factors that have increased for people lately include:
- Prolonged mask wearing
Life stressors can cause us to clench our jaws involuntarily which can lead to increased muscle tension through the TMJ joint thus leading to TMJ pain or dysfunction. (The TMJ is the “temporomandibular joint” which is where the mandible (or lower jaw) meets the skull).
Wearing a mask for long periods of time can cause us to hold our jaws in different positions so that our mask sits comfortably on our face. When we are wearing our mask, many of us will tense our jaw or push our chins down to pull the mask away from our face without even realizing it, when we hold our jaw in a tensed position for a long time we know that this can lead to discomfort and dysfunction through the joint.
A few tips on keeping your jaw relaxed are:
- You don’t want your teeth touching
- Your tongue should be resting on the roof of your mouth
- Keeping your lips together but not pursed will also help decrease tension through the TMJ
- Being cognizant about what we are doing with our jaw should help keep it relaxed as well
- Make sure your mask fits well, if the ear loops are too tight around our ears it can lead to pain in the TMJ area as well
These simple tips may help some of us, but there are some conditions that may need more help. Those that grind their teeth at night may have jaw dysfunction due to the area being overworked while sleeping, I would recommend you speak with your dentist about this and work through stress reduction strategies as well.
If you are one of these people that have nagging jaw discomfort and cannot seem to get a handle on it, come in and see one of the great practitioners at WIN Health Clinic, we will do a thorough assessment and determine if manual care will work for you. We have many different therapy options, as well as stress reductions strategies that may help with that nagging jaw pain.
A parting note: take a deep breath, unclench your jaw, and relax your shoulders.
-Dr. Conner Overstrom