Recovery from coronavirus has been a long haul for Dr. Douglas Dieterich, a hepatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Dr. Dieterich spent several weeks in the ICU back in March after contracting the novel coronavirus while treating patients.
“This virus ravaged my body, my lungs, my heart, my feet, my nose, all of which are slowly recovering,” Dieterich told Fox News.
Dieterich said he has experienced multiple symptoms throughout his recovery, the latest being jaw pain known as TMJ.
“I was told that it likely occurred from open-mouth breathing while I was struggling to get air in during the early months of recovery,” Dr. Dieterich said.
“I am now wearing a mouth guard to alleviate strain in the TMJ region,” and doing physical therapy, the liver specialist shared. Though it seems minor compared to the nightmare the he went through, it is still a bothersome complaint that many patients recovering from COVID-19 are experiencing, according to health experts Fox News spoke with.
“The temporomandibular joint is the joint where your jaw and ear meet and can often be the site of pain and discomfort,” physical therapists at Thrive Integrated Physical Therapy in New York City, told Fox News.
“With COVID-19 infections, many patients were not able to breathe efficiently and compensated using accessory muscles in their neck to help them breathe.” Tamar Amitay, PT, owner of Thrive Integrated Physical Therapy told Fox News. “This can cause the neck muscles that pull on the jaw to become overworked and strained, leading to discomfort in the jaw and neck area,” Amitay told Fox News.
Physical therapists told Fox News that open mouth breathing often seen in those struggling for breath during the acute phases of COVID-19 infection can “weigh down the joint” and strain it.
Sherri Glasser, PT, MS, director of Metro Physical and Aquatic Therapy in New York and Florida, told Fox News “upper chest breathing is very common” with COVID-19 as well as other breathing conditions and can lead to strain at the neck and jaw areas.
"Also, COVID patients are experiencing more stress and could be clenching their teeth at night," adding to tension at the jaw region, Glasser said.
Glasser, a manual physical therapist, explained that COVID patients may be holding improper postures due to breathing issues and overall weakness from the virus that leads to muscle imbalance that can create further tension on the jaw and neck.
“A forward head posture also facilitates tightness in the muscles in the front of the neck pulling the TMJ back towards the inner ear. Poor postural awareness may result in overuse in the accessory muscles of respiration in front of the neck and upper chest instead of the diaphragm,” Glasser explained.
Patients recovering from COVID-19 infections experiencing this jaw pain can get help though physical therapy by “normalizing their posture and breathing patterns to decrease or eliminate symptoms of TMJ abnormalities causing facial and neck pain, ringing in the ears, dizziness fatigue, loss of balance and headaches," Glasser explained to Fox News.
As for Dieterich, he told Fox News he is taking this latest bump in the road to recovery in stride and is glad to be back to work this month.
“I’ve come a long way from discussing the ventilator in April and being tethered to oxygen in May," he said. "A lot of folks think it may take as long as a year but I’m determined to beat it and get back to normal."