Andrea Nederveen, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist
For the last 2 years we all have been subjected to wearing various types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Many who must wear masks, glasses or shields daily (for long periods of time) have noticed more headaches as well as tension in the back, neck, shoulders and jaw. This is evident in the clients that are coming in for massage therapy treatments.
The reason for the increased hypertonicity to the muscles in the upper body is that your upper body is trying to adjust around a piece of equipment. This causes a mechanical burden to the body and increased pressure on the soft tissues.
Some common examples are as follows:
Upon wearing your mask - your body adjusts the way you formulate words when you talk or sing because of the pressure on the lips and mouths.
When you are wearing a mask or shield at your desk - you need to look over your mask, as your downward view is blocked, causing strain on your eyes and neck.
When you are wearing your glasses or shield - your eyes strain through another layer of plastic.
When you are trying to hear someone speak with a mask on - you tend to strain your neck in the direction of the person if you cannot hear them properly.
The reasons for increased headaches are the pressure on the soft tissues, the decrease in oxygen and increase in carbon dioxide. The mask and shield are also a physical barrier to drinking which can decrease hydration.
At this time, we are still encouraged to continue to wear PPE to prevent the spread of Covid-19, so here are a few simple tips to help decrease the PPE pain:
Drink extra water to increase hydration.
Focus on deep belly breathing to optimise your oxygen flow.
Self massage your scalp just above your temple in a circular motion. You can also do this a little lower at the jaw as well as across your forehead.
Stretch your neck and shoulders regularly: Top 10 Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Pain and Increase Flexibility (healthline.com)
Get a professional massage by a Registered Massage Therapist.
I know many of us are looking forward to the day when we will no longer require the daily use of PPE. However, in the meantime please be aware of your posture and your pain. If you notice that you are getting more headaches or upper body discomfort than normal, consider trying some of the above noted tips and see if they help.