In the past year during the pandemic I have noticed there has been a definite increase in the number of complaints about jaw pain. Having TMJD (tempomandibular joint dysfunction) since a very young age I am quite aware of how the stress of something like a worldwide pandemic can affect this small but troublesome joint.
If you take your index fingers and place them gently inside each ear or more simply just in front of your ear and open and close your mouth you will feel this joint moving under your fingertips.
When it is not functioning optimally it will cause pain/tenderness and inflammation at the site
of the joint, pain in the neck and shoulders, headaches, difficulty/pain opening or closing your
jaw, difficulty/pain chewing your food.
So why all the complaints about jaw pain? Stress is a big factor. I am not sure many people
would disagree that the pandemic on top of other everyday life stress has turned up the
volume on jaw pain. People are grinding and clenching their teeth like never before. It is a very terrible habit to try and break, but also a very common thing that a lot of us do when we are stressed, at night and even throughout the entire day.
A lot of people are also working from home now with suboptimal ergonomic workspaces.
Kitchen counters/tables, couches and the bed make for poor structural alignment in the body.
Even though our regular workplaces may also at times be questionable, they are at least not as terrible as the options we tolerate at home and for such an extended period of time.
Masks also seem to be a trigger for some of the worsening jaw pain people are experiencing.
BUT YOU MUST WEAR THEM! Let me be clear on that, I am not suggesting during a pandemic to stop wearing your mask. But maybe just learn how to get comfortable in them.
So, let’s talk about how we can manage and possibly eliminate the jaw pain so many of us are experiencing.
Take care of yourself Manage your stress. Seek help! A wide variety of health care practitioners are operating during this pandemic. Either virtually or in person. Safe protocols are in place by regulated health care professionals to help prevent the spread of covid19, so if you need help please get it. At Dupont Naturopathic Family Centre we can help you manage your stress and jaw pain in a variety of ways. Massage, acupuncture, osteopathy, cranial sacral therapy, cupping, botanical tinctures, vitamins, minerals can all be tools to help you manage TMJD.
Seeing a mental health professional to manage stress is important as is talking to your dentist about options like bite splints to manage this condition.
Align yourself Whether you are sitting or standing to work at home or in the office make sure you are working from a place of neutral alignment with your pelvis spine and head. Your pelvis must not be tucked under, your low back should maintain a soft lordotic curve (not flat), your shoulders over your hips, your head over your shoulders, and keep your feet flat on the floor. The typical head forward posture most of us take on while spending excess amounts of time on our tech devices puts a lot of strain on the biomechanics of the jaw. It is said that in order to create new neurological mind-body connections you have to repeat a task 10,000 times before it becomes second nature. So never stop trying to work on good postural habits.
Breathe Nobody likes wearing them. Our pandemic masks have turned into quite an accessory these days, it is hard to fathom a future where they won’t be the norm. Unfortunately, I don’t think they are going anywhere any time soon. For a few there are negative side effects like rashes for those with skin sensitivities. What I notice myself and in talking to others, wearing masks throughout the majority of the day turns us into chronic mouth breathers as we feel we are not getting enough air flow with the masks on. We also seem to have the tendency to open our mouths using our jaw to pull the mask out of our eyes as it climbs its way up our face. Stop doing that… Make sure you have a proper fitting mask. One that covers your face to your chin up to the bridge of your nose. The ones with the nose pinch are ideal as the make for a better fit and help prevent the mask from moving upwards. Try the best you can to continue breathing through your nose. Slow down your breath! Most people over-breathe even without the mask on.
Taking a few minutes each day to do some meditative breathing with your mask on can give
you a better sense of control over how you feel trying to find oxygen in your mask. Don’t panic. Tell yourself you are okay. Inhale slowly for a count of 6, pause for 2 seconds then exhale slowly and completely again for 6 seconds and pause once more before inhaling again. And of course, when you can maintain safe social distancing, take the mask off for a breather.
Lisa Falla RMT