The practice of dental hygiene exposes practitioners to work related musculoskeletal disorders risk factors of repetitive motion, pinch-grasp, force, vibration, and prolonged awkward positions. According to the Dental Research Journal, dentistry is "considered by the practitioners and most of the public as being extremely hazardous.
If you are not proactive in taking care of your musculoskeletal health, your career will inherently be short lived. The nature of their work includes unique positioning challenges for dental hygienists which leads them predisposed to certain muscle imbalances that can be worsened by specific exercises. Read on to learn how to properly exercise to correct these imbalances and alleviate pain.
Generic fitness will make only make pain worse
Dental professionals are prone to painful muscle imbalances which can become worse through exercises that might not be a problem for the general public. Generic exercise programs, or “one size fits all” as I like to call them (Beachbody, Group Fitness, Pilates, and Yoga) need to be modified to remove those harmful exercises that can throw them into the vicious pain cycle.
Example 1: Hygienists typically have rounded shoulders and forward head which causes chronic neck pain. Studies show that a whopping two thirds of hygienists suffer from this. Without addressing the underlying causes properly, this will only worsen over time. However, this can be fixed through corrective exercise meaning, we must target certain muscles that are weak and underactive. If you are doing an exercise program that works the muscles that are OVERACTIVE, this will only make things worse.
Example 2: Excessive sitting as well as leaning forward and twisting on the job leads to low back pain. While paying attention to your form is important, like with neck pain, there are certain muscles that are weak and underdeveloped and need to be strengthened. This can be done through a specialized strength training program which will also help to build muscular endurance so your muscles can sustain being utilized throughout an entire workday.
If you want to learn more, I have a specialized program that is designed specifically for dental professionals. Click here to book a free call to learn more.
Stretching is only part of the equation!
If you are a person who stretches regularly, you may notice that while it may help alleviate pain temporarily, it always seems to find its way back to you. This is because your muscles are like rubber bands. They can be stretched and lengthened however they will bounce right back if you don’t take any other action towards strengthening these muscles. This is like brushing your teeth but not flossing. Or vice versa.
You see there are two parts to a corrective exercise program:
Part 1: stretch the overactive muscles
Part 2: strengthen the underactive muscles.
This type of programming will correct any imbalances that may be present. For example, chronic neck pain consists of tight upper traps, levator scapula and pec muscles. These need to first be stretched then, the lower traps and shoulder stabilizing muscles need to strengthened.
In short, when muscles are short and tight from overuse, this causes pain. On the contrary, strength training lengthens muscles over time and will only help to reduce pain and alleviate it all together!
If you are suffering from pain in or outside or work, this is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. We need to listen to this! A lot of people think that this is just part of the job and that they have to deal with it. I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. Through a proper strength training program, this pain can be eliminated, and your work can become enjoyable and productive for many years to come.