When we don’t feel well, the last thing we want to do is get up and get moving. We’d rather sit on the couch, be alone and wallow in the state of feeling just plain bad.
The same is true for tinnitus flare-ups. On top of making tinnitus sufferers feel uncomfortable physically, escalating tinnitus symptoms can make us feel down, anxious and depressed. But rather than isolating ourselves and doing nothing, doctors recommend tinnitus patients work to actively manage and take control of their symptoms. One of the best treatment options is exercise. A while it’s important for tinnitus patients to incorporate more vigorous physical activity into their daily routines, they can also do small daily physical therapy exercises designed to stretch, strengthen and increase blood flow to the neck muscles, jaw and other related areas.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is sound you hear that doesn’t have an external source. Most people describe tinnitus as a ringing sound, but patients can experience it in many different ways including whistling, buzzing, chirping, hissing, humming, roaring or even a heartbeat. The noise can be loud or soft, occasional or constant, a mild annoyance or an incapacitating chronic condition. Some 50 million Americans have experienced tinnitus symptoms, and of those, 2 million experience severe, debilitating symptoms. However, many people can lessen their symptoms by adjusting their habits and adopting healthy lifestyles including incorporating exercises into their routine designed to lessen tinnitus symptoms.
What Exercises Help With Chronic Tinnitus?
There are a variety of exercises you can do at home to lessen your tinnitus symptoms. These include:
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: while sitting down, focus on the muscles in one area of your body like the toes on your right foot. Inhale and tighten only the muscles you are concentrating on for eight seconds. Then, unclench and release them suddenly. Let the tightness flow out of your muscles while you slowly exhale. Continue this exercise by working your way up the body, clenching and relaxing muscle groups from your toes to the top of your head and back down again.
- Deep Breathing: repeat the following sequence 20 times.
- Exhale completely through your mouth.
- Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth for 6-8 seconds.
- Autogenic Relaxation: think of a phrase or saying that relaxes your mind and simply repeat it over and over in your head. While doing this, continue your deep breathing.
- Guided Imagery: once you are relaxed from your deep breathing exercise, close your eyes and imagine yourself in the most relaxing environment possible. You can also search for guided meditation videos on YouTube that will help walk you through this peaceful exercise.
Strengthening and Stretching Exercises
Performing these exercises can help tinnitus sufferers with neck pain, jaw disorders and muscular tension that contributes to their tinnitus symptoms:
- Exercises for the Head, Neck and Jaw
- Exercise 1: to relax the spinal cord, first sit up straight and lower your chin to your chest. Intertwine your fingers and place your hands on the back of your head. Push your head back into your hands while your hands try to push your head forward. Repeat three to five times daily.
- Exercise 2: open your jaw as wide as possible. While in this position, touch the roof of your mouth with the tip of your tongue. Move the tip of your tongue backward towards your tonsils and hold for a few seconds. Then, stick your tongue out as far as you can and hold it. Repeat this exercise four or five times daily.
- Exercise 3: sit up straight and gently move your head up and down 20 times in a nodding motion. Then gently move your head side to side 20 times as if shaking your head “no.” Repeat this exercise three times daily.
- Exercise 4: stand in front of a mirror and hold your chin in both hands. Open your mouth wide and touch the tip of your tongue to the top of your mouth. Now, slowly move your jaw up and down. Add slight resistance to your jaw using your hands. Repeat the motion for one minute straight. Repeat this exercise three times daily.
- Exercise 5: sit up straight and open your jaws wide, but keep them relaxed. With your mouth open, tilt your head back until you are looking up at the ceiling. Inhale deeply and then exhale slowly before returning to the starting position. Continue for several minutes. Repeat this exercise five times daily.
- Neck-Specific Stretching
- Lay on the floor with your back and head on the ground.
- Nod your head gently. Your head does not need to reach your chest. You’ll feel a gentle pulling down both sides of the back of your neck. Do this as many times as you can comfortably.
- Repeat the maneuver, but switch it up by moving your head from side to side.
- Jaw-Specific Exercises
- Max Opening: open your mouth as wide as possible. Use your hand to open your mouth wider and pull your chin down. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat four times daily.
- Lateral Movement: with your mouth relaxed and slightly open, move your jaw from side to side as far as you can. Next, make a fist and push it against your jaw to move it farther to the right and left. Hold each position for 30 seconds. Repeat four times daily.
- Midline Exercise: while sitting in front of a mirror, clench your teeth and pay attention to the position of the two middle teeth on your lower jaw. Slowly open your mouth without moving your jaw to the left or right, keeping the two bottom middle teeth centered. Repeat this exercise 10 times daily.