LVB: Good Shepherd Experts Discuss ‘Mask Jaw,’ Trigger Finger and Other Pandemic-Related Workplace Injuries

April 14, 2021

Catherine Dara and Charlie Eberling, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network

A pair of Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network experts recently spoke with Lehigh Valley Business on pandemic-related workplace injuries sprouting up during the last year-plus of COVID.

As the article (“A Pain in the Mask: From ‘Mask Jaw’ to trigger finger, the rise in pandemic-related workplace injuries’) explains:

When it comes to focusing on workplace wellness amidst the pandemic, many things come to mind. Stress management, social distancing, mask-wearing and working from home when possible. All contribute to keeping workers healthy, both mentally and physically.

What many of us don’t realize, however, is that some of these pandemic-dictated wellness measures can create unique problems of their own. Pain and injuries from improper or frequent mask wearing and working from home in less-than-ideal workspaces are on the rise, according to health organizations like Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network.

Therapists at the Allentown-based Good Shepherd are treating more cases of “mask jaw,” neck pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome, they say. In addition, as we all increasingly shop online, the warehouse and e-commerce workers tasked with filling our orders are facing their own problems. Back pain, trigger finger and shoulder injuries are all rising among these workers.

Catherine Dara, PT, DPT, OCS, STC, site manager of Good Shepherd Physical Therapy – Bethlehem, and Charlie Eberling, PT, DPT, CWCE, TPI, regional outpatient rehabilitation manager and site manager of Good Shepherd Physical Therapy – Fogelsville, shared their insights into how the injuries occur and what people can do about jaw pain, trigger finger, warehouse-related injuries, pain resulting from remote working and more.

“We see a prominence of overuse injuries in warehouse and ecommerce workers,” Eberling said. “We forget about the human aspect when we place an order; about the people under pressure to fill these orders with increased speed. They do a lot of overhead reaching, a lot of repetitive motions.”

When patients with mask-related pain come to Good Shepherd for treatment, the therapist first makes them aware that there is more than one way to fix the problem.

“One of the first things we teach is proper resting position of the jaw,” Dara said. “Lips slightly touching, teeth apart, tongue floating towards the roof of the mouth. Then we explain how to breathe properly in the mask. In through the nose and out through the mouth gently. This alone can help a lot.”

Read the full article (subscription required).

Find more information on jaw pain.

Find more information on work-from-home ergonomics.