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    5 steps to a pain-free dental career

    These essential steps can be invaluable to preventing pain and ensuring career longevity.


    5. Strengthen specific stabilizing muscles 

    Fig. 4Fig. 4Studies show that dentists with better endurance of the back and shoulder girdle muscles have less musculoskeletal pain (Fig. 4).

    However, if you over-strengthen muscles with trigger points, your pain may worsen, which if why this is the fifth step in our sequence. Consider waiting until the area is pain-free to begin strengthening.

    Related reading: Why all exercise is not necessarily good exercise for dental professionals

    Because of their vulnerability to muscle imbalances, all strengthening exercise is not necessarily good exercise for dental professionals. Some of the worst pain problems I have seen resulted from a dentist who followed a generic exercise program designed by a personal trainer at their gym. The exercise needs of dentists are very specific, and while certain key muscle groups should be targeted, others should be very cautiously approached or eliminated altogether in an exercise regimen. 

    Numerous studies support endurance exercise over strength training for dentists. In dentistry, it is imperative to have proximal stability — when these postural “stabilizer” muscles become fatigued, not only can the operator slump into less than optimal posture, but the “mover” muscles are called upon to perform a stabilizing task for which they are not designed, (e.g., muscle substitution). Muscle imbalances can develop that cause painful trigger points and muscle spasms to develop in the inappropriately used muscle. Also, joints may not move normally due to the abnormal muscular tension, causing premature degeneration of joint surfaces and inflammation of the muscles or tendons. Over time, weak postural stabilizing muscles in dental professionals may ultimately lead to a musculoskeletal disorder.

    Related reading: Two exercises that can help keep dental professionals pain-free

    Ensuring a pain-free career involves addressing numerous risk factors. Take the time to further educate yourself on each step of the above sequences with evidence-based resources developed specifically for dentistry. You’ll find yourself feeling less pain, more energy, less fatigued, and increasing your productivity! 

    To help dentists effectively implement the five steps to wellness in this article, Dr. Valachi developed the Wellness System for Dental Professionals. This evidence-based kit addresses all the risk factors that contribute to work-related pain in dentistry to ensure a long and healthy career in a stepwise, easy-to-implement format. DPR readers receive a special discount using the code WELLNESSDISC. For more information, go to http://bit.ly/PosturedonticsWellness.


    Dr. Bethany Valachi, PT, MS, CEAS
    Dr. Bethany Valachi, PT, DPT, MS, CEAS is DPR’s ergonomics editor and author of the book,“Practice Dentistry Pain-Free” and clinical ...


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