Have you ever caught yourself falling out of your basic clock positions, or craning your neck just to peek at the distal of #2? If you nodded yes and felt a little twinge of pain in your neck, you’re not alone.
According to a 2012 study, 54-83% of dental hygienists reported neck pain, while 35-76% reported shoulder pain. So if you’re not feeling these common aches and pains of your RDH career already, the odds of avoiding them aren’t all that great unless you’re proactive.
Not only is it possible to deliver excellent patient care while taking care of yourself, it’s crucial. So how do hygienists avoid neck and shoulder injuries in a field where they’re so prevalent? Here are some simple tips you can employ in your everyday practice.
Easier said than done, right? This is critical because it’s the foundation for a long, healthy relationship between your neck, shoulders and hygiene career. Write these tips on a Post-It note and hang it somewhere visible to help keep your posture in check throughout the day.
Tuck chin in
Feet flat on the floor
Aside from not slumping, you can also improve your posture by making sure that your elbows drop down below your shoulder height, and that your tray table is lowered so you’re reaching down – not up – for your instruments.
Adjust Chair Height
Hygienists are often seated in awkward fixed positions that can lead to discomfort, pain and possible disability. One variable that you CAN control is chair height. A proper chair height for you and your patient directly affects your posture, so if you’re having a hard time achieving your posture goals, adjusting your chair or switching to a saddle chair might help.
Wear Dental Loupes
When fitted correctly, loupes do wonders for the longevity of your hygiene career. They promote a neutral body position and proper working distance, and they improve your depth of field and declination angle, which all go back to your posture. Be sure to speak to an expert so your depth of field and declination angle are measured correctly!
Use Proper Lighting
Not only will a pair of loupes help save your neck and shoulders, a loupe light will take it one step further. Loupe lights reduce eye strain and enhance visibility, reducing the likelihood that you’ll move out of a neutral position to get a better look.
Counter the effects of your daily routine with some simple neck and shoulder stretches. Most stretches can be done chairside between patients, while in sterilization, or hopefully during a break/lunch time. Need some stretch ideas? Check out this article or download a PDF.