The hygienist’s blog – three essential things to prevent back pain becoming an occupational therapy

the hygienists blogShoulder and back pain is one of the most common complaints for those working in dentistry. Claire Berry gives her three tips to help avoid it.

When I was training to become a hygienist, I remember the instructors being really strict about back care.

I recall adjusting my posture when I saw them walking toward me in clinic. I’d suddenly sit back upright with the appropriate distance between me and the patient with my arms at the correct angle.

I was in the army at the time. Fit, healthy, trained a lot and most importantly, I was young and durable.

But I want you to learn from my mistakes!

If I am going to be truly honest with myself, that fell by the wayside once out in the real world. I often found myself practically upside down to see somewhere like the palatal of the UR6. I would use a mirror of course and do things properly the majority of the time. But if working with a time constraint or if running over, nothing would beat direct vision on the situation.

To say I regret that now is an understatement. Twelve years on and I am suffering the consequences of poor posture and lack of back care, in a career that’s known for this to be an occupational hazard. I now know why those instructors were so strict about implementing it.

I wish I’d taken it more seriously. So I want to spread awareness about it. If I help only one person then that will be wonderful. Here are three essential things to do, in my opinion, to prevent a bad back becoming an occupational injury.

Invest in loupes

It has taken me 12 years to get this message to sink in.

I’d been advised to invest in loupes a few times by peers. I could appreciate what it could do to help me, however I just kept putting it off. But trying some on and physically seeing the difference it made within minutes of a meeting with the Orascoptic rep, made me kick myself for not taking the advice years ago.

If you haven’t tried loupes to see what it can do for the standard of your work, or for the benefit of your posture and long-term ability to keep working, then you are truly missing out.

Take it from someone who now has to see a physiotherapist regularly for back pain, loupes are a number one investment for your health.

The hygienist range by Orascoptic is designed to be the perfect fit for our profession and after having tried them, it will absolutely help your posture during treatment.

Make your next purchase a saddle stool

My main issue was slouching, which is so easy to do in a normal chair.

A saddle stool thrusts your pelvis in the right position and actually works your core. The chair is designed like an equestrian saddle to put the user in a forward-leaning position, bending the knees and hips about 135 degrees. This takes pressure off the lower spine.

I like the Belmont saddle stool with a tilting seat for comfort and this forward-leaning position.

My full article on this topic is in the September issue of Private Dentistry magazine.

See a physiotherapist for preventative back care

Shoulder and back pain is a common and well known issue in dentistry. I didn’t see a physio until I was really suffering.

I would say now my pain feels almost chronic and I learn to live with it. It helps when I see my physio because she works on my muscles deeply, gives me stretches I should do daily and gives me tasks to do while working. She makes me think more about my back, shoulders and my neck and the cascading issues that occur if I don’t take it seriously. She helps me to continue to do things I like, for example running. It was a genuine worry about whether I could work up to retirement until I met my physio.

I’d suggest seeing someone for preventative care and to ensure long term back health is a good idea.

Even if you are not suffering right now, please consider preventing it from ever occurring for yourself. After all, isn’t prevention our favourite word as a profession?


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