Don’t get me wrong I am an avid mask wearer for COVID protection. I have no problem with wearing a mask to keep myself safe and those around me safe. So please don’t use this blog as an excuse to not wear a mask. Ok now that we have gotten that out of the way, I want to talk about how masks are causing me TMJ problems and why. I have found while wearing a mask, I do this thing with my jaw to try and create a pouch of air around my nose and mouth. What I am doing is pushing my mandible forward to create this little pouch. This means that the muscles used for mandibular protraction are getting constant use and my temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is therefore not in its resting position. This means that I am putting constant strain on the muscles and joint capsule which leads to pain (no surprise there).
I wear my mask for over eight hours every work day, so this constant activity adds up. We call this an overuse injury. Generally, the advice on an overuse soft tissue injury is to stop doing the activity or to decrease the amount of time you do this activity. Great advice if you know you are doing it. Because I am doing this movement subconsciously (I think subconsciously I think I won’t be able to breath if I don’t do this) biofeedback is the name of the game. I am also doing massage on the afflicted muscles. I have not needed a chiropractic adjustment so far, but Dr. Walters is ready if I do need one. For the most part with a little knowledge and massage I have been able to help myself. If you are having TMJ issues, get them addressed as fast as you can, the longer you wait the harder it is to undo the damage and to retrain your body if the problem is from an overuse injury.
There are many things that can cause TMJ and now I have a new one to add to my list. Who would have ever thought a year ago I would be writing about mask use and TMJ?