Can you utilise physical exercise to help your tinnitus symptoms? Perhaps you can. Tinnitus, commonly characterised by the perception of noise or ringing in the ears, is a condition that affects millions worldwide. For many, tinnitus is a constant presence, while for others, it comes and goes.
The sounds heard can vary from a low hum to a high pitch buzz and may be heard in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with the ability to concentrate or even sleep.
Exercises for Tinnitus
While there is no cure for tinnitus, there are several strategies and exercises that can help manage the symptoms. These exercises do not directly affect the auditory system but work by reducing stress and releasing muscle tension, which can exacerbate tinnitus.
We’re going to explore 5 practical exercises designed to provide relief from the persistent and often disruptive symptoms of tinnitus. It's important to note that these exercises may not be a perfect solution but can be part of a comprehensive approach to managing tinnitus, which may include sound therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
Exercise 1: Neck and Shoulder Exercises
Start by sitting or standing with your spine in a neutral position, shoulders relaxed.
Slowly turn your head to the right until you feel a gentle stretch, holding for 5 seconds.
Return to the centre and repeat on the left side. Perform this movement 10 times on each side, focusing on a smooth, controlled motion.
Shoulder Shrugs and Rolls
Lift your shoulders straight up towards your ears, hold for a few seconds, and then release. Repeat this shrug 10 times, feeling the tension release with each downward movement.
After completing the shrugs, roll your shoulders in a circular motion, starting forward for 10 rotations, then reversing the direction.
Tilt your head to the right, bringing your ear closer to the shoulder without lifting the shoulder.
Hold the tilt for 5 seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat on the left side, ensuring you maintain the stretch for an equal amount of time. Complete this exercise 10 times on each side, aiming for a gentle stretch in the opposite neck muscles.
Combine neck rotations and tilts by looking over your shoulder and then tilting your head slightly backward, holding for a few seconds. Return to the neutral position and repeat on the other side. This combined movement can help release the tension at different angles and should be done gently to avoid any strain.
These neck and shoulder exercises can help alleviate some of the tension that may contribute to tinnitus symptoms. They promote relaxation and can be done several times throughout the day, especially during periods of prolonged sitting or stress. It's essential to perform these exercises gently and without pushing into pain, as the goal is to relax the muscles, not to stretch them excessively. If you have any skeletal or muscular issues with your back or neck, make sure to speak to a health professional before trying these exercises.
Exercise 2: Head Movements
Begin in a seated or standing position with your shoulders relaxed and your head in a neutral position. Gently tuck your chin towards your chest, creating a double chin, and hold for 5 seconds.Release and return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times, ensuring the movement is slow and controlled.
Side-to-Side Head Slides
Keep your head facing forward and slide your head horizontally to the right, keeping your chin level. Hold the position for 5 seconds, feeling the stretch on the opposite side of your neck. Slide your head to the left side and hold for the same duration. Perform this exercise 10 times on each side, focusing on keeping the motion in a straight line.
Diagonal Neck Stretches
Look down towards your right armpit, reaching your chin towards the area while keeping your back straight. Hold for 5 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the left side, ensuring a balanced approach to the stretch. Complete this stretch 10 times on each side, aiming to feel a gentle pull without any discomfort.
Gentle Head Rolls
Drop your chin towards your chest and slowly roll your head to one shoulder. Continue the roll towards the back, but only go as far as is comfortable - do not tilt the head backward.
Roll your head towards the opposite shoulder and then down to your chest again. Perform this rolling motion 5 times in each direction, keeping the movements small and avoiding any full rotations of the neck.
These head movements are designed to increase flexibility and reduce tension in the neck and shoulder region, which can sometimes contribute to tinnitus. It's important to note that while these exercises can provide relief, they should be done with caution and stopped if they cause any pain or dizziness. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have existing neck issues or health concerns.
Exercise 3: Jaw Exercises
Relaxed Jaw Exercise
Place your tongue gently on the roof of your mouth behind your upper front teeth. Allow your teeth to come apart while relaxing your jaw muscles. Hold this position for a moment, then slowly close your mouth. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times to help reduce tension in the jaw.
Goldfish Exercises (Full Opening)
Using the same hand positions as the partial opening exercise, open your mouth completely.
Hold this position for a few seconds before closing your mouth. Again, you should feel a slight resistance but no pain. Perform 6 repetitions of this exercise, one set six times a day.
Resisted Opening and Closing
Place your thumb under your chin. Open your mouth slowly, pushing gently against your chin for resistance. Hold for 3 to 6 seconds, and then close your mouth slowly. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times.
These jaw exercises can help improve the flexibility and strength of the jaw muscles, which may alleviate some of the symptoms associated with tinnitus, especially if TMJ issues contribute to the condition. It's essential to perform these exercises gently and without straining, as overexertion could worsen symptoms. If any of these exercises cause pain or discomfort, it's advisable to stop and consult with a healthcare professional.
Exercise 4: Massage Techniques
Neck and Jawline Massage
Begin by gently massaging the muscles of your neck and shoulders using your fingers.
Apply circular motions and light pressure to relieve any tension. Gradually move up to the jawline, massaging the area where the jaw meets the ears, a common site for tension accumulation.
Use your index finger to gently massage the area in front of the ear canal and behind the earlobe. This can help improve blood circulation around the ears and may provide relief from tinnitus symptoms.
Place your fingertips on your scalp and use gentle circular motions to massage the head.
Cover different areas of the scalp, especially those over the temporal region, to help relax the temporal muscles.
Full Facial Massage
With a full facial massage, focus on the forehead, temples, sides of the nose, and around the mouth and chin. Use upward strokes to lift the muscles and stimulate blood flow.
Massage techniques can be a soothing way to manage the discomfort associated with tinnitus. They help in reducing stress, one of the potential aggravators of tinnitus, and promote overall relaxation. It's important to approach these techniques with care, avoiding excessive pressure that could lead to discomfort.
Exercise 5: Breathing and Relaxation Techniques
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and place one hand on your belly. Breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach rise as your diaphragm pulls air into the lungs. Exhale slowly through pursed lips, noticing your stomach fall. Repeat this deep breathing pattern for several minutes to calm the nervous system.
Focus on your breath, paying attention to the sensation of air moving in and out of your nostrils. If your mind wanders to the ringing in your ears, gently redirect your attention back to your breath. Practice for 5-10 minutes daily to cultivate a habit of mindfulness that can reduce the stress associated with tinnitus.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Begin at your feet and work your way up to your head, tensing each muscle group for a few seconds then releasing. Combine this with deep breathing to enhance relaxation. This technique helps to identify areas of tension related to tinnitus and encourages overall relaxation.
Close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel calm and relaxed. Visualize the details of this environment, engaging all your senses. Pair this with deep breathing to deepen the relaxation experience.
Breathing and relaxation techniques are essential in managing tinnitus as they help in reducing the stress that often exacerbates the condition. By learning to control the breath and relax the body, individuals with tinnitus can often find some relief from the constant noise.
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Tinnitus can be a challenging condition, impacting daily life and well-being. While there is no definitive cure, incorporating specific exercises into your routine may significantly alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. The 5 exercises outlined - neck and shoulder exercises, head movements, jaw exercises, massage techniques, and breathing and relaxation practices - target the various physiological factors that may contribute to tinnitus.
These exercises serve to relax muscles and ultimately reduce stress, which are all potential triggers or amplifiers of tinnitus symptoms. By practising these techniques regularly, individuals may experience a reduction in the intensity and frequency of tinnitus episodes. It's important to approach these exercises with patience and consistency, as the benefits often accumulate over time. If you’re interested in trying these exercises, make sure that you’re able to do them without causing any excess pain or discomfort.