By: Amber Auger, RDH
Near to my heart is helping hygienists have healthier, happier careers, and I believe it starts with an honest assessment of our health. It’s difficult to find joy at work when dealing with back pain, and sadly most hygienists report chronic pain.
Previously, I’ve shared my experience working in a small historic office with outdated equipment and an unrealistic hygiene schedule. It took a toll on my body. It didn’t take long to realize that my plan to “grin and bear it” was failing me.
Preventing Back Pain As A Dentist
You deserve more from your career than spending your time off trying to recover. So what can be done?
We are kicking off a series of steps you can take, from tools to personal care to improve your career and quality of life both inside and outside of work.
Straighten Up Your Posture
Starting with the basics is ergonomics. When we talk about pain at work, working posture is usually at the forefront of the conversation. If you aren’t sitting correctly, your spine, hips, shoulders, and ribs will be twisted and out of alignment, causing health problems.
A strong, healthy posture allows for good blood flow, deep breathing, better digestion, clearer thinking, improved mood, protection from injury, and better endurance.
When the spine is out of alignment, blood flow is restricted, muscles become fatigued quickly, waste products aren’t effectively eliminated, oxygen isn’t optimally delivered to the tissues, and the body’s energetics is stagnant and blocked.
Over time poor posture can damage vertebral discs, weaken muscles, increase headaches, weaken digestion, restrict breathing, and alter our mood to one of defeat and insecurity.
Our posture is so important that it can cause physical pain and even affect our emotional well-being. Naturally, when we are sad, we tend to withdraw and slump over. However, the reverse is also true, known as embodied cognition.
Embodied cognition is our body’s influence on our mind. Researchers found when we sit slumped over, this position tells our brain we are sad, and our thoughts are increasingly pessimistic.
Plus, if we aren’t sitting nice and square with a healthy curvature in our spine, our lungs and diaphragm can’t expand and contract fully as intended. This leads to poor shallow breathing that triggers a host of complications. The quality of our breathing is so crucial that we will explore the impact of breathing in a future article.
How to Improve Your Posture
Our ideal working position is with an athletic stance, with hips above the knees and the pelvis slightly tilted forward to support the natural S-shape curvature of our spine.
Many tools can help assist you in maintaining this ideal position. Loupes help maintain a healthy working distance. Good lighting helps prevent us from stooping over for a better look, and a quality engineered stool will encourage your seat bones and lower back to maintain the ideal working position.
A stool may be an overlooked piece of equipment in supporting our need for a healthier work environment, but a quality stool allows good blood flow to all extremities. It should tilt the pelvis forward and provide lumbar support to encourage the natural s-shape of our spine.
The Revolutionary A-Dec Dental Stool
Even when we wear our loupes, dentistry requires we lean forward and tilt our heads at a steeper angle than when working at a computer. This required position is strenuous on the body and is why a stool with proper support should not be overlooked. Your stool needs to be specifically engineered for the body position and movements unique to dentistry.
A-Dec is one such stool. They have been researching proper ergonomics in dentistry for years and have specifically engineered a stool to support dental professionals in maintaining the ideal working posture.
Unlike many other stools, A-Dec is designed to conform to your body to tilt your pelvis into proper alignment while maintaining softness to encourage healthy blood flow to the legs and feet. A-Dec nestles around your body to provide your lumbar and seat with the support it needs while at the same time not restricting your movements.
We have been taught not to slump and to sit up straight. But the reality is, it usually isn’t this simple. If you are slouching over at work, you need to investigate why and correct it.
Perhaps if you are stooping over, you are having trouble seeing and would benefit from better lighting or loupes, or you need the support to retrain your muscles to maintain a straighter posture.
Years of poor posture will condition and weaken our muscles. A quality stool may be just what you need to turn it around and give you the aid and support to a straighter, healthier back with less work fatigue.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska