Every day in thousands of dental offices, one of the staff members suffers from significant pain due to the repetitive body positioning required to treat patients. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) of the U.S. Department of Labor, work loss as a result of repetitive use injury (RUI) is the most common occupational health problem, costing more than $20 billion per year in workers’ compensation alone.1 The financial cost of treating low back pain as well as the personal income and production loss is tremendous.
Gathering specific data unique to the dental professional and the innumerable positions we place our bodies in poses a challenge. The anatomical characteristics of both the clinician and the patient need to be taken into consideration. The flexibility and static suspension (holding the jaw open or neck turning) can decrease proper vision and mechanical access. Imbalance can occur and lead to overexertion and injury. It is difficult to develop a "one size fits all" program that will prevent and treat imbalance in the dental clinician’s body. There are multiple facts to consider in regards to exactly what (or where) needs to be brought to balance. When imbalance occurs over time, it results in overexertion and injury. Prolonged static contractions leads to the accumulation of lactic acid, reduction of oxygen levels in the tissue, and fatigue and pain and likely injury.2 Developing health is best approached by stretching and strengthening several key muscle groups. Whether it is issues with the neck, shoulders, middle back, lower back, elbows, forearms, wrists, or fingers, the dental field is a high-risk profession, and taking charge now can change one’s day-to-day well-being.3 This particular course focuses on strengthening the legs, hips and low back.
As many dental professionals can attest, the position the body is kept in while treating patients contributes to pain and limitation in movement. The repetitive motion combined with the same static positioning can lead to imbalance that may result in injury. Injury requires treatment and often involves loss of work. Mindful practice of posture combined with breathing, stretching and strengthening key muscle groups regularly will balance the body. This is accomplished and maintained through the practice of yoga. Yoga is a philosophy and practice that connects the body, breath, and mind to energize and balance the whole person.4 Balanced bodies are necessary to support a healthy, pain-free spine. When balance is found within the body, in any position or range of motion, harmony can be created. This sense of equanimity can bring more peace into the workplace as well as throughout everyday life.