Injuries in Musicians and Vocalists – Jaw and Head

Jaw Joint Problems, Facial Pain and Headaches

(Karen Rolfe – Physiotherapist)

  Musicians and music students can become injured as easily as an athlete playing sport. Different instruments come with specific risks for injuries. A risk of strain of the facial muscles or temporomandibular joint (Jaw joint) is particular to vocalists, violinists, violists, and musicians playing many of the wind instruments. Knowing the risks of your specific instrument can assist in the prevention of injury. jaw

 Signs of injury

–         Do your jaw joints click, grate, pop or make any noises when chewing speaking or   opening your mouth to yawn?
–         Do you get facial pain particularly over the jaw joint?
–         Do you get earaches but have not had an ear infection?
–         Do you have difficulty opening your mouth?
–         Are you able to slide your lower jaw further to one side?
–         Are your joints hypermobile (“double-jointed”)?
–         Do you get a headache while playing or immediately after playing or singing?

Answering yes to any of the above questions indicates that you are already developing an injury related to your musicianship

 Know your risks

-Violin and viola players are at risk of temporomandibular joint dysfunction due to the asymmetrical posture of holding the instrument under the left lower jaw
– Brass wind instrument players can be at risk of lip injury especially from a combination of high notes, prolonged playing and playing at fortissimo intensity
– Vocalists are at risk of developing both strain of the facial muscles and injury to the temporomandibular joint
– Harmonica players can develop strain of the muscles around the mouth and jaw joint


–         Know your specific risks eg female, double jointed or previous injury
–         Know the risks that come with your instrument
–         Research possible modifications for your instrument to reduce the risk, such as high chin rests for violin players or different height stands on cellos
–         Regular breaks in practice sessions.
–         Enough time between practice sessions to allow recovery and require further warm-up
–         Improve technique
–         Correct posture
–         Correct tongue posture – Yes the tongue has posture too and it is vital for the health of the facial and throat muscles as well as the temporomandibular joint.
–         Play a variety of styles, paces and intensities
–         Know and do the best stretches and exercises for your specific risks

 Injury management

–         Learn to recognise the signs of injury early
–         A break from playing or singing may be necessary
–         Rest for the muscles and joint is necessary – avoid repetitive chewing such as chewing gum, don’t eat very hard foods or very chewy foods and avoid opening your mouth too wide.
–         Application of either heat or cold to the injury – guidance would need to be given on the appropriate modality depending on the injury
–         A physiotherapist will provide a detailed assessment on your injury as well as the practice regime, posture and program you are undertaking.
–         Physiotherapy to correct general posture, tongue posture, reduces imbalance in facial and neck muscles and improve function of the temporomandibular joint.
–         A physiotherapist would also supervise a regime for returning to playjaw

 A physiotherapist will also provide an individualised treatment and rehabilitation program to ensure you are fit and ready to return to playing your instrument with the lowest likelihood of reinjuring the current area.

Remedial massage therapy could help you to reduce muscle tension, tightness and pain in the neck or back.

 If you would like to make an appointment with a physiotherapist for an assessment and/or treatment of your injury.  Or if you are concerned about your current instrument and postural setup or your practice schedule please call Rathmines Physiotherapy on 4959-1622 or ask at reception.