Protect ya neck. Okay, so maybe not all of you are Wu-Tang clan fans, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have some good advice. Incorrect posture shortens more careers in dentistry than just about anything else. If you look at the literature the prevalence of neck and back pain is rampant in dentistry, with most studies showing rates in the 75+% or higher. Dentistry has been listed as one of the most detrimental professions for your health due the musculoskeletal dysfunction associated with it.
Proper treatment position is key to a long career in dentistry. However, it is not always possible to maintain proper posture for everything that we do. The average human head weighs approximately 11-12lbs. However, once we break the vertical plane the weight increases drastically. Add into the weight loupes, head lights and now face shields the weight just keeps adding more and more stress to an already strained system.
The best thing is to keep proper ergonomics, but as was stated earlier, this isn’t always possible. Luckily, with some good maintenance exercises the damage can be lessened and if caught early enough reversed. The most common areas that are affected are the neck, back, shoulders and hips for all dental professionals. Wrists and hands are at more risk for hygiene due to repetitive stress injury, commonly known as carpal tunnel syndrome. For the sake of this article, we will focus mainly on the neck and some shoulder mobility.
The exercises can be done before or after working, or for that matter both. The goal of these exercises is getting the specific area moving. It is not about getting a “workout” from the exercises. With that in mind, when using bands, it is not about how much weight you are pulling. You only need enough to have a sense of resistance. This gives you enough to activate the muscle and stabilize the joint you are working on. Remember the idea is to get the proper movement, not fatigue the muscle.
Here are the eight exercises:
• Do the first five three times a day in the order listed below.
• The last three can be done either before or after work, or both if you need it.
Trying to maintain good posture is of course the first goal but if that is not possible there are ways to reduce the strain and stress on the body. By performing these exercises on a regular basis, you can help reduce any damage done through poor posture. With regular maintenance you can slow down the progression of cervical and thoracic spinal issue and the corresponding shoulder impingements that most dental professionals suffer from.