Of all the things to worry about during a pandemic, wearing a mask shouldn’t be one of them. Found to be an easy way to help stop the spread, it is an essential component in our ongoing combat to eradicate the virus. Unfortunately, some people are experiencing issues with everyday mask wear: recent studies have found a correlation between masks and neck pain. In Marisa Dellatto’s article for The New York Post, “Wearing your mask wrong can cause neck pain,” she interviewed our very own Ninia Agustin, PT, DPT and Clinical Director of our Times Square – Center for the Performing Arts clinic, to get her clinical insight.
According to Marisa’s research, “The American Chiropractic Association has observed a connection between people spending long periods of the day in masks, and increases in jaw pain, neck stiffness, eye tension, upper back pain and headaches.” The correlation comes from masks, specifically ones that don’t fit well, causing people to shift their bodies and hold onto stiff positions in order to be able to see—some masks have been reported to get in the way of one’s field of vision, hence the irregular body contortions and sudden need to hold muscles in an uncomfortable manner.
Ninia agrees that though masks may not be a direct cause, they can definitely be a contributing factor: “Impediment of the peripheral vision is a real thing…I can’t just look down with my eyes; I have to look down with my head and neck.” Doing this often, say, when reading text messages with your neck out of alignment for a good period of time, will cause pain in that area.
Seeing as masks are still required by law in most places, there needs to be a resolution found while wearing them. A good first step is to find a mask that fits you well. “The CDC advises that good-fitting masks will not have gaps on the sides of the face or the nose, and will have ear loops that allow the mask to sit comfortably close to the face. The ACA said that it shouldn’t drastically impede your field of vision, either,” writes Marisa. Her recommendation? “Test out a few different masks and look side to side and around to make sure you can see, noting if you’re changing your body position to compensate.”
Ninia recommends moving around as much as possible to combat the pain: “The more you move your neck, the better off you’re going to be. Posture isn’t static, it’s dynamic. Whenever you’re working or on the phone, be mindful of moving every hour, minimum.” Quick neck stretches, shoulder rolls, and a side neck stretch will also help alleviate discomfort. “Put your arm behind you. Take your other arm, wrap it around your head and gently pull toward one side,” Ninia advises.
Another coronavirus-related issue that could be causing neck pain? An improper desk set up. Sitting at a desk for long periods of time could cause stain. Setting up your desk is optimal for prolonged sessions. (Psst: we got you covered—check out our Ergonomics webinar for information on how to get your work station properly set up!)
If all else fails and your discomfort/pain persists, you’re experiencing numbness or tingling, or severe headaches, Ninia recommends visiting a doctor or a physical therapist ASAP.
Thanks to Ninia for providing such insightful information! You can read Marisa’s entire article on the NY Post website!