Techs at Becker Dental Laboratory having a ball with healthier seating

March 21, 2012
Stan Goff
Stan Goff

Issue 3

Back pain is the last thing anyone working at a lab bench wants to put up with every day. That’s why ceramist Shawn Holmes of Becker Dental Laboratory in Herculaneum, Mo., looked into exercises and new seating in an effort to combat his lower back pain. What he found was a two-for-one solution in stability balls. Now that he has swapped his traditional dental lab chairs for these stability “exercise” balls, Holmes’ back pain has gone away and he’s feeling better and stronger while at work.

Back pain is the last thing anyone working at a lab bench wants to put up with every day. That’s why ceramist Shawn Holmes of Becker Dental Laboratory in Herculaneum, Mo., looked into exercises and new seating in an effort to combat his lower back pain.

What he found was a two-for-one solution in stability balls. Now that he has swapped his traditional dental lab chairs for these stability “exercise” balls, Holmes’ back pain has gone away and he’s feeling better and stronger while at work.

“I feel much better,” said Holmes, who has worked in the dental lab industry for 17 years beginning with training in the Air Force. “When I was trying it (stability ball) out for the first time my back was really bothering me. I was sitting on my regular dental lab chair and then when I started sitting on the ball my lower back pain went away immediately.”

While talking with fellow workers at the lab about exercises, one of the technicians suggested they sit on an exercise ball while working. Holmes, who was seeing a physical therapist at the time for his back pain, asked the therapist about using stability balls at work. She told him it was a great idea because stability balls work on stabilizing your core muscles.

“Our job is so sedentary that it’s a good way to burn extra calories while sitting at the bench doing our job,” Holmes said.

It helps that the owners of the 25-employee family business outside St. Louis are so supportive. “It’s great that the owners are onboard with it,” he said. “They even sit on the exercise ball from time to time when they’re working. It’s just a plus working for such flexible, open-minded people. The other thing is the stability ball forces you to sit with your legs at a 90° angle and your back at a 90° angle.”

The staff at Becker Dental Laboratory has found that 65 cm size stability balls work just right with the 90 cm Dental Art benches used in the lab. These exercise balls can be purchased at many places, and Holmes said some co-workers have gotten them from Wal-Mart and others from exercise shops.

“The size exercise ball that we use works perfectly with our Dental Arts benches so that our arms and our shoulders are at the right angle and height so that we don’t experience as much fatigue,” he said. “Not everybody switched over but quite a few of us have.”

An added benefit is the ability to adjust these stability ‘seats’ to best fit the user. The exercise ball’s firmness can be adjusted with air pressure, making it more firm or less firm depending on what each individual is comfortable with.

There was a slight adjustment period while transitioning to the sitting on the balls, he said, and that included getting used to the balance and movements. Also, workers noticed that they’re using different muscles as they sit on the ball throughout the day. “The first couple days it did take a little bit getting used to, plus we noticed a big difference in the core muscles right off so some of us worked our way up to (using) all day,” Holmes said. “Some of us would sit on it for a couple hours a day and then work our way up from there.”

Thanks to the switch, Holmes now feels better at the full-service lab and with a pain-free back on the job, he’s sure to perform better and for longer. “I do feel healthier,” he said. “Once you get used to sitting on the ball then you’ll start to notice. The more you sit on it the more you notice feeling better at the end of the day than if you were sitting in a chair.

“What I like about it personally is that when I’m sitting in a chair I’m limited to the positions that I can sit in. On the stability ball I can stretch my legs out, I can roll around, I can move throughout the day which allows me not to feel so confined.”