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Mask wearing: how it can affect our neck, jaw and breathing patterns

Since the most recent COVID-19 outbreak, lockdown and restrictions are back in place again, and with that – mask wearing! Wearing a mask is part of being a responsible citizen but it can affect our neck, jaw and breathing patterns especially if we are wearing one for long periods of time. Here are some ways wearing a mask may affect you and handy tips to help make mask wearing more manageable.

Muscles in the back of your neck tightens:

This is especially so if you have a mask with straps around your head and neck, instead of masks with ear loops.

o Tip 1: Put your hands behind your head and pull your head down to stretch those muscles.

o Tip 2: Try some chin tucks to improve your neck posture, hold each for 5 seconds.

Your jaw muscles feel tight:

Your mouth doesn’t get to move very well in a mask which can cause some muscles to shorten and tighten.

o Tip 3: In a mask, gently move your jaw up and down, left and right (think of the movements you make when you are chewing food)

o Tip 4: Out of a mask, open and close your mouth slowly, as wide as comfort allows

You might be clenching your jaw:

This can occur if your jaw muscles are tight or from built-up stress

o Tip 5: Gently touch the palate (roof of your mouth) with your tongue as a reminder to avoid clenching

You could be breathing through your mouth:

This encourages a short, shallow breathing pattern which can switch on our fight-or-flight response, thereby contributing to stress and anxiety

o Tip 6: Focus on taking slow, deep breaths over 5-6 seconds and direct the air into the bottom parts of your lungs before exhaling slowly over another 5-6 seconds

If you are finding that increased mask wearing is affecting your neck or jaw, or causing headaches and pain don’t hesitate to contact our clinics for an appointment ASAP.

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