The effect of jaw exercises on anxiety and depression in patients with head and neck cancer receiving radiotherapy: Prospective 2-year follow-up study

Head Neck. 2020 Feb;42(2):330-335. doi: 10.1002/hed.26012. Epub 2019 Nov 22.


Background: This nonrandomized matched study investigates jaw exercise effect on anxiety/depressive symptoms in head and neck cancer patients with trismus during 2 years postradiotherapy.

Methods: Fifty patients with trismus postradiotherapy were included in a 10-week jaw-training intervention. A matched control group was included (N = 50). Maximum interincisal opening (MIO) ≤ 35 mm was used as the trismus criterion. Patients were assessed using MIO and Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale preintervention, postintervention, and at 2-year follow-up.

Results: A significant difference was found in depressive symptoms between the intervention group and control group (4% vs 33%) at 2-year follow-up, with more control group patients reporting possible depression. In the intervention group, significantly fewer patients had possible/probable depressive symptoms at follow-up (4%) compared to preintervention (34%). No change was seen within the control group.

Conclusion: Structured jaw exercise in patients with postradiation trismus had positive effects on MIO and depressive symptoms but does not seem to have any significant effects on anxiety symptoms.

Keywords: head and neck cancer; mental health; quality of life; radiation therapy; trismus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Depression* / etiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / complications
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Trismus / etiology