Is dentistry a pain in your neck? Stuart Clark – Clark DentalFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 7th September 2019
Dentistry can be an incredibly rewarding but demanding profession. As a dental practitioner, you may have experienced some degree of musculoskeletal pain, or know many colleagues who have suffered from the same problem at some point during their career. Unfortunately, due to the nature of dentistry, clinicians are more likely to adopt static working positions for prolonged periods of time, which limit movement to the hands and wrists, resulting in repeated strain on the body. This can increase a practitioner’s risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders – the cumulative damage of which can be significant, contributing to reduced productivity, increased sickness absence, and the need to retire from the profession.[i]
According to one systematic review, the reported prevalence of musculoskeletal pain amongst dentists varies between 64% and 93%, with the most commonly cited areas of pain being the neck and back.[ii]These statistics are troubling but somewhat unsurprising, considering many dental professionals are so focused on their day-to-day responsibilities that they often neglect their overall health and wellbeing. Excess body weight resulting from insufficient hydration, poor nutrition intake and a lack of regular exercise, can cause practitioners to operate in awkward positions that pull the lower back muscles. This puts an incredible amount of stress on the spinal column, which can lead to chronic neck, back and shoulder pain if left untreated. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent or reduce your risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders.
The benefits of combining a healthy diet with an effective exercise routine have been well documented. As dentistry is a rather sedentary profession, it is vital that clinicians take time away from the surgery to exercise regularly. This can not only increase your energy levels and improve your mood, but also plays a vital role in minimising bone and muscle loss, and maintaining strength as you age.[iii]Taking part in activities that exercise all the major muscle groups for two or more days each week is recommended.[iv]Exercises such as swimming and weight training can increase overall physical strength and fitness, while Pilates and yoga are particularly helpful at improving flexibility, which can lead to a reduction in musculoskeletal pain.[v],[vi],[vii]decrease
Massage therapy is quickly becoming more widely accepted within the medical field as a credible treatment for acute or chronic back pain. Research shows that massage therapy increases blood flow and circulation, which provides essential nutrients to the muscles and soft tissue. This aids in recovery from sore muscles caused by excessive physical activity or soft tissue injury as a result of muscle strain.[viii]Experts also believe that massage therapy can minimise muscle tension to improve flexibility, reduce pain caused by tight muscles, and even enhance sleep.[ix]Massage therapy is by no means a cure for musculoskeletal pain, but dental practitioners could benefit from regular sessions to manage any discomfort they might experience after long hours spent in surgery.
It is important to remember that a poorly designed surgery can hamper your efforts to maintain the most appropriate working position. If you find yourself straining within your surgery on a day-to-day basis, then it might be time to consider re-designing the workspace so that it is ergonomically suited to you and the dental team. Ideally, all equipment and instruments should be within easy reach, eliminating the need to bend and stretch to get what you need. There should also be enough space within the room for you to move around comfortably – particularly behind the dental unit when it is reclined – but not too much space that it reduces the efficiency of your workflow. Ultimately, a cramped work area can force you to assume poor working positions that put additional stress on your muscles.
As part of ensuring that your surgery is fully optimised to suit your workflow, it is worth upgrading to a more ergonomic dental unit. Having developed an outstanding reputation as a leading supplier of high quality equipment, Clark Dental offers a wide range of dental units such as the Classe L9 from Anthos. Available as a Continental or Side Delivery system, this dental unit has been innovatively designed with a seat that articulates at the knee joint, ensuring quick, easy and comfortable access to patients. It also features cross-over dynamics, enabling practitioners working without an assistant to position the instruments they require on the same side of the unit body, for extended operating potential. By investing in ergonomic equipment that adapts to your surgery, you can ensure greater freedom of movement and minimal risk of musculoskeletal injury for the whole dental team.
You chose to be a dental professional, but that should not mean you have to suffer for it. Musculoskeletal pain remains an issue within the dental field, but implementing a few simple measures can make a significant difference to improving your physical health and wellbeing, which can result in a more fulfilling career.
[i]Leggat, P. A., Kedjarune, U. and Smith, D. R. (2007) Occupational Health Problems in Modern Dentistry: A Review. Industrial Health. 45: 611-621. Link: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/indhealth/45/5/45_5_611/_pdf/-char/en. [Last accessed: 23.04.19].
[ii]Hayes, M., Cockrell, D. and Smith, D. (2009) A systematic review of musculoskeletal disorders among dental professionals. International Journal of Dental Hygiene. 7(3): 159-165. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5037.2009.00395.x.
[iii]Semeco, A. (2017) The Top 10 Benefits of Regular Exercise. Healthline. Link: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-exercise#section1. [Last accessed: 23.04.19].
[iv]NHS. (2016) How to improve your strength and flexibility. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/how-to-improve-strength-flexibility/. [Last accessed: 23.04.19].
[v]Robinson, K. M. (2016) Swimming. WebMD. Link: https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/swimming-for-fitness. [Last accessed: 23.04.19].
[vi]Ciolac, E. G. and Rodrigues-da-Silva, J. M. (2016) Resistance Training as a Tool for Preventing and Treating Musculoskeletal Disorders. Sports Medicine. 46(9): 1239–1248. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0507-z.
[vii]Sorosky, S., Stilp, S. and Akuthota, V. (2007) Yoga and pilates in the management of low back pain. Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine. 1(1): 39–47. doi:10.1007/s12178-007-9004-1. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684152/. [Last accessed: 23.04.19].
[viii]Goats, G C. (1994) Massage–the scientific basis of an ancient art: Part 2. Physiological and therapeutic effects. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 28(3): 153-6. doi:10.1136/bjsm.28.3.153. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332056/?page=1. [Last accessed: 11.06.19].
[ix]Weerapong, P., Hume, P. A. and Kolt, G. S. (2005) The Mechanisms of Massage and Effects on Performance, Muscle Recovery and Injury Prevention. Sports Med. 35(3): 235-256. Link: https://www.sportstherapyuk.com/images/docs/journal1-801.pdf. [Last accessed: 11.06.19].