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Can Work-Related Pain Be Avoidable or Reversible? In the School of ErgoPractice®, Part 1

ErgoPractice News – June 2014
By Jin Chang PhD

A large majority of dental professionals and surgeons today experience pain in their necks, shoulders, and upper backs. Many practitioners believe chronic pain is a necessary evil inseparable from the practice of dentistry or surgery. But, work-related pain can be avoided or reversed if we work with ergonomically designed loupes and headlights. Loupes, often called surgical telescopes, establish one’s posture (good or bad).1 Headlights may either support or break the posture established by loupes.

Are Tools Available for Practicing Dentistry or Surgery Pain-Free?

The answer is definitely yes. During the last twenty (20) years, SurgiTel has been dedicated to designing and building tools that enhance a clinician’s work and assures their safety. As many clinicians have testified, the use of SurgiTel ergonomic loupes and headlights has helped dental professionals and surgeons avoid, alleviate, or eliminate their chronic pain.2-3

In order to achieve a truly comfortable and safe posture, one that will reward you with a long and pain-free career, there are two critical tools and one supporting tool:

  1. Loupes: Can make or break your posture. Ergonomic loupes will allow you to sit upright with a comfortable level of head tilt.
  2. Headlights: Maintains the posture established by ergonomic loupes.
  3. Seating: Supports the posture created by loupes and headlights.

Most manufacturers have labeled their traditionally designed loupes as “ergonomic loupes.” Traditional designs can help users sit with a straight lower back, but cannot support a neutral neck posture for most procedures. Traditional loupes provide partial ergonomics.

Statistics of Loupes

Today the majority of dental professionals and surgeons use loupes. Based on various survey data we estimate that more than 85% of current loupe users may be using traditionally designed loupes with inadequate declination angles (smaller than 25-degrees). Less than 15% of current loupe users may be using ergonomically designed loupes with adequate declination angles (larger than 35-degrees).4,5 After using traditional loupes for 5 to 15 years, many users have developed chronic pain or injuries in their necks, shoulders, and upper backs. But they do not know that the main cause of chronic pain may be the continued use of traditionally designed, posture-breaking loupes.

Why Are Most Dental Professionals and Surgeons Using Traditional Loupes?

Pain due to the use of non-ergonomic loupes will take many years before it becomes overwhelming and contributes to injury. Most users do not know that their loupes are the main cause of chronic pain because traditional loupes have been sold as ergonomic loupes. Even traditionally designed loupes help users achieve a straighter lower back, but they will still force users to excessively tilt their heads.5 Believing they have ergonomic loupes based on manufacturers’ advertisements, clinicians often attempt to manage their pain by visiting chiropractors or physical therapists rather than searching for ergonomically correct loupes. But without eliminating the root cause, treating symptoms is not a long-term solution and cannot reverse their pain.

Educating clinicians on the ergonomic benefits of SurgiTel’s advanced loupes and headlights, SurgiTel has become one of the top three loupe manufacturers in the world within a relatively short period of time. SurgiTel continues to increase market share among new, young loupe buyers. In the early 1990s, SurgiTel introduced the first ergonomic loupes and later the first portable clinical headlights. But the other two loupe manufacturers (Orascoptic and Designs for Vision) have focused on promoting their traditional Through-The-Lens (TTL) loupes as ergonomic loupes, even if the declination angle of their loupes do not meet the ergonomic requirements for a comfortable and safe neck posture.

Since the majority rule is applied here, many dental professionals and surgeons believe that traditional TTL loupes are ergonomically designed and continue to use traditional loupes, eventually resulting in chronic pain. It should be noted that even the declination angle of traditional Front-Lens-Mounted (FLM) loupes is similar to the declination angle of traditional TTL loupes.

Creating the Right Tools and Sharing Experiences

For a pain-free practice, we have to have the right tools. During the last twenty (20) years SurgiTel has created all the necessary tools for the pain-free practice. SurgiTel products have helped many clinicians practice dentistry or surgery pain-free. As a part of ergonomic education, SurgiTel has been publishing ErgoPractice® News starting June 2013, click here to view the archive. We have reviewed the advances made in loupes and headlights, principles of clinical illumination, requirements of custom loupes, blue light hazards of cool LED lights, and key factors for selecting the right loupes. In our ErgoPractice News, several clinicians have shared their stories about their chronic neck pain caused by traditional loupes and how they were able to eliminate or alleviate their pain with SurgiTel ergonomic loupes.

As a tribute to Steve Jobs, Brian Solis said, “Life is about creating and living experiences that are worth sharing.” First of all, I would like to thank all those who shared stories of their SurgiTel experience through our ErgoPractice News. I would also like to ask those who have achieved the pain-free practice to share your stories with your peers privately, or even using our ErgoPractice News. If you would like us to send our ErgoPractice News to your peers, who may now be suffering from posture-related pain, share with us their e-mails. I strongly believe, together, we can make our workplaces both safer and more productive.

  1. Rucker, Lance M. “Surgical magnification: posture maker or posture breaker.” Ergonomics and the dental care worker. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association (1998): 192-206.
  2. Chang, Jin. “Advances in Magnification and Mounting With SurgiTel’s Patented Prism Loupe Technology.” SurgiTel. SurgiTel, February 15, 2014.
  3. Chang, Jin. “Design Considerations of LED Headlights for Color Accuracy Eye Safety.” SurgiTel. SurgiTel, March 1, 2014.
  4. Valachi, Bethany. Practice Dentistry Pain-Free: Evidence-Based Strategies to Prevent Pain and Extend Your Career. Portland, OR: Posturedontics Press, 2008.
  5. Chang, Jin. “Declination Angle as the Key Ergonomic Factor, Key Factors for Ordering Custom Loupes: Part 1.” SurgiTel. SurgiTel, April 1, 2014.