There has a lot of news recently about the injuries office workers can face if they do not have the proper ergonomic equipment available to them. Proper chairs, monitor height, and stretching exercises are just a few of the recommendations.
However, ergonomics is important in many professions, including dental practices.
Patients likely do not realize just how much physical work is involved on a daily basis for hygienists. However, the hygienists themselves soon come to realize the hard way when aches, pains, and nagging discomfort make themselves known.
Hygienist Jamie Collins, RDH, CDA, recently wrote about this subject for Dentistry IQ, covering the commonly known ailment nicknamed “hygiene hip.”
For most people, adjustments and medical appointments follow discomfort. Jamie admits this was also the case for her, but points out hygienists should follow the example set by dental schools and practice prevention.
After all, once discomfort sets in, it means your body is ailing.
Sometimes, these aches and pains indicate that issues are no longer reversible. You don’t want to spend all that time learning your craft only to find yourself in need of a career change because your body is ailing.
As you likely know from your day-to-day duties, you often must spend time in unnatural positions, particularly if the patient complains about the angle you have them on. This increases your danger of hip injuries, and raises the possibility of upper and lower back, neck, and wrist issues.
Have you started to experience problems like this? Chances are, you have.
Jamie points out that 64-93% of dental workers suffer from some kind of work-related Musculoskeletal Disorder. Stiffness, soreness, hip popping; are all signs of MSD, and indicators that you need to make some modifications.
How long have you had your operator chair? It is crucial for your body to have proper positioning throughout the day. If your current chair has become misshapen, or was not the best product to begin with, it is time to invest in a new saddle stool to improve your work posture. If the dentist is not willing to cover the cost, consider digging deep and buying the stool yourself. It beats spending time and money at the chiropractor and many uncomfortable days and nights.
Don’t forget the other equipment you work with. The better the magnification of the oral cavity, the less you have to bend, so consider adding a personal light to your loupes.
Practice preventive maintenance with your instruments. Sharp instruments decrease treatment time and physical strain, and a cordless handpiece helps to reduce possible wrist fatigue.
Frequent breaks help to prevent muscle fatigue, which leads to poor posture and discomfort. Practice stretching exercises during your shift, and be sure to exercise off the job. Pilates and yoga are very helpful, but Jamie emphasizes the key is to take time for your body and listen to its needs. Being comfortable aids productivity, which improves performance and the quality of care you can provide for your clients.