Ian Homan of Chiropractors of Ascot provides his top tips for staying healthy and avoiding back pain in your practice.
While the health of your back may not be your primary focus from your first day, there are some things you need to consider to make sure that your back (pain) doesn’t become all you can think about later in life.
The greatest amount of postural stress associated with dentistry is found in the upper thoracic and cervical spine. I will take you through some tips to help avoid and alleviate these common issues.
If possible sit at the head of the chair to avoid repetitive (rotational) movements, which over time will create asymmetry in your musculature and create poor muscle patterns. These may lead to chronic upper cervical issues.
Try to have your chair high at a workable height and position. Having the patient too high will cause a shortening in the upper shoulder musculature (ie upper trapezius), which again over a career will create chronic hypertrophy of the muscles involved. I would recommend trying to have your shoulders relaxed and elbows at 90 degrees, allowing for some variation to this as you will have to move around the patient.
Try to have the patient as close to you and your midline as possible, thus reducing the load placed upon your upper thoracic and cervical spine, while also allowing you to work from a stronger, more stable position.
Take regular short breaks
If you only have 20 seconds to spare between patients use it wisely. As your work positioning is in a position of extension, combat this by looking at the ceiling for 20 seconds minimum between patients. This gives your suboccipital muscles a break. Start this from your first appointment of the day as it’s generally too late if you start doing the exercise after you feel tightness. Your head is heavy and you are putting it in a position of stress so give it some love.
Look after yourself
Often this gets overlooked. If you’re not physically capable of doing the job then it’s going to show in your work, or worse still it will stop you working. Go to the gym, yoga, pilates or whatever it is you enjoy doing, and make time for it within your weekly schedule. Try to focus on exercises that work your posterior chain (extensor muscles). Humans are flexion dominant and your positioning further adds to this flexor domination, so when you’re exercising give some thought to working on your extensor strength – these are the muscles that will be under the most stress at work.
If possible have small nutritious snacks throughout the day (eg a handful of almonds, trail mix or a banana). This will keep your body fuelled and prevent fatigue and exhaustion on your muscles!