Covid-19: Jaw pain is an unexpected side-effect of mask wearing
Saturday, 26 December 2020
The pandemic of Covid-19 has caused many millions of casualties, as one unusual and unexpected side-effect: complaints of pain in the jaw.
For most of us, the obligation to wear a face-mask in all public situation is a pain in the neck. According to physiotherapists, however, it is also becoming a literal pain in the face in increasing numbers.
The sector has recorded an increase in patients complaining of pain in the muscles of the jaw, and according to Fien Jonnaert, a practitioner who specialises in the jaw problems, there are two root causes: mask wearing and stress, both attributable to the coronavirus crisis.
“Keeping the mask in place and talking through it puts a lot of strain on the jaw,” she told Het Nieuwsblad. “And then the stress of the coronavirus also takes its toll on the jaw.”
It has long been known that stress can express itself by grinding of the teeth, even unconsciously and often during sleep – which can have an effect on the state of the teeth themselves, as well as on the jaw muscles.
The mask is a new addition.
“Since March I have seen more and more people in my practice with jaw complaints,” Jonnaert said. “Just then the corona crisis also started.”
The graph of the increase in jaw complaints maps the increase in mask-wearing exactly, she said.
“At the start of the corona crisis, the number of jaw complaints increased, especially among healthcare staff,” she told the paper. “These are people who were already wearing face masks at the time. Later the number of complaints continued to rise, when the masks also appeared on the streets.”
The problem, though, is not the masks per se, but the fact that people tend not to wear them properly.
“Use a mask that suits your face, that does not slip, because when masks slip down, we often try to correct it with the jaw, which is not accustomed to that movement.”
Not all of the masks on the market, particularly the more fashion-oriented style, are made to fit every face type. The ordinary blue surgical mask from the pharmacy is made to be one-size-fits-all.
And if you have been experiencing jaw problems, she has some free advice.
“With a few simple exercises you can relax the tension of your jaw muscles. For example, give your jaw some rest by keeping it in a resting position. Mouth slightly open, tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and lips together. And suppress the urge to adjust your mask by moving your jaw back and forth.”