Injuries of the Jaw During the Pandemic

When the Pandemic hit, I was shocked to see the types of emails that came in. “I hurt my ankle while jumping to exercise apps!”  “My wrists hurt from doing Pilates at home without a proper mat!” “I don’t think my Peleton fits me correctly because it hurts my hip to ride!”   One may suppose that the biggest issue during New York City’s quarantine would have been adjusting to a sedentary lifestyle, but patients were telling me a different story.  Hypervigilance seemed to be more often what was plaguing them. With so little juice in the tank, many were operating at full speed; and I was both so stunned and curious to know how their bodies would cope with these transitions.  

There was no shortage of online material for weight lifting, meditation, Yoga, High Intensity Intervals etc. Exercise branding was booming, and clients were very willing to test out new celebrity workouts and apps. 

From my own perspective, there was so much cognitive dissonance.  People were exercising as if they had adapted to our new situation. They hadn’t.  People wanted to DO something, but there was no real space for that kind of DOING.  In many ways, this is how injuries happen- hip labral tears come from sitting long hours and abruptly running.  Patellar femoral injuries come from sitting in strange positions and then quickly standing up.  Shoulder injuries come from that one reach into the back seat after long hours in the car.

At this time, I had also been working heavily with colleagues Margi Douglas and Joe Miller on Jawspace- a podcast to help patients learn to stop grinding and clenching their teeth; and in September, an outpouring of news articles told me that it was time for us to move more quickly.

The New York Times, “A Dentist Sees More Cracked Teeth. What’s Going On?”

New York Magazine, “The Best Ways to Relieve Jaw Tension, According to Dentists.”

Jerusalem Post, “50% of Israeli middle-aged women suffered teeth-grinding during lockdown.” 

The Jaw, it turns out, is just as vulnerable to injuries related to quarantine as other areas in the body, and I believe this is for the same reason: dissonance.  The muscles of the face and jaw are meant for eating and expressing ourselves. While our mouths want to socialize and smile, we are often instead holding our tongues and biting our lips. Just like everywhere in our bodies, we need a little bit of time to re-learn proper movement.

Jawspace is incredible. It draws on our imagination and the optimism of curiosity, wonder, play, novelty, awareness and support, to help people learn how to retrain the muscles of the jaw for healing.  It works, and it is especially important during these times, when we have to remember that movement is pleasure, and that how we use ourselves is everything.