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SurgiTel Doctors: Pioneers in Practicing Clinical Ergonomics and Ergonomic Educators

ErgoPractice News – February 2015
By Jin Chang PhD

In 1994, General Scientific Corporation imparted upon its newest division, SurgiTel, the slogan “Vision and Ergonomics at Work.” Ever since SurgiTel has been designing and building loupes and companion products that help users improve their vision while working with the safest working postures. Today, SurgiTel products prevent or alleviate or eliminate work-related pain and injuries all over the world.

SurgiTel’s first product was its Front-Lens-Mounted (FLM) ergonomic loupes with customizable declination angles. Later we developed Through-The-Lens (TTL) loupes with ergonomic, custom declination angles by designing our own unique frames. Both TTL and FLM SurgiTel ergonomic loupes provide users with steep, ergonomic, customizable declination angles.

At the time, and still today, all major loupe companies claimed declination angles significantly larger than about 20-degrees would only cause eyestrain. They did not realize that while the natural declining angle of human eyes is about 20-degrees, our eyes can easily rotate up to 55-degrees. These companies also did not recognize the epidemic of chronic neck pain or injuries due to excessive head tilt. And they certainly have not recognized ergonomic loupe designs as the solution.

As a newcomer, SurgiTel had trouble selling this new type of loupe against our larger competitors. We could have easily sold loupes of traditional design with small declination angles like our competitors. Instead, we decided to follow our slogan “Vision and Ergonomics at Work.” We collected and developed educational materials that explain the science of “Vision and Ergonomics.” These educational materials demonstrated how work-related injuries can be due to poor posture and how SurgiTel’s ergonomic loupes could prevent chronic neck pain

Early SurgiTel doctors embraced the concept of SurgiTel’s ergonomic loupes and shared their experience and knowledge with their peers. As pioneers in practicing clinical ergonomics, they became de facto ergonomic educators. Today the word ‘ergonomic’ is so popular and all loupe manufacturers use it to promote their loupes. This may be true as traditional loupe designs can help prevent lower back pain since users bend over less. But truly ergonomic loupes should help users work with an ergonomic neck posture as well. In many cases, traditionally designed loupes are even the cause of chronic neck pain or injuries.

Then why are dental/hygiene students and residents purchasing traditional loupes today which can be the main cause of chronic neck pain and injuries?

First, tilting our heads feels more instinctual versus rotating our eyes. The natural declining angle of human eyes is about 20-degrees which are used as the declination angle of traditional loupes. When trying on loupes for the first time, traditional designs may feel more “right” than ergonomic loupes with a steep declination angle. But working ergonomically requires “Attention and Practice” to learn healthy habits. The same goes for ergonomic tools such as loupes with ergonomic, custom declination angles.

It should be noted that young people can work with the non-ergonomic neck postures for many years, sometimes more than ten, without experiencing chronic neck pain. It takes time for cervical disks to deteriorate due to poor neck posture. By the time excruciating pain suddenly appears, the cervical disks are already badly damaged. But it is never too late to turn our unhealthy habits into healthy habits. With the right knowledge and the right loupes, we can develop a new working posture that can alleviate or eliminate pain.

Second, there are no clear guidelines for selecting proper loupes. Most educational institutions put the burden of selecting the right loupes on their already busy, inexperienced students. Students collect information from loupe sales reps or friends instead of experienced educators. Often this leads students to choose loupes based on misinformation, rumor, or simply for the lowest price. They rarely get the chance to understand how improperly designed loupes may hurt them in the long run.

Third, many clinicians of all types skip their own research and use the shortcut of getting the same loupes as a friend. They do not realize that Ergonomic and Magnification Requirements are not the same for everyone. A certain loupe type that satisfies the requirements of one clinician may not satisfy the requirements of other clinicians.

In this February 2015 issue of ErgoPractice News, we will share two stories. The first story is from a clinician (Dr. Ansari) who used Designs for Vision’s traditional loupes and was told nothing could be done about his neck pain until he found SurgiTel. The second clinician (Dr. Hachett) used an Orascoptic’s traditional loupe design while his excruciating neck pain was diminishing his quality of life until he switched to a SurgiTel ergonomic loupe.

Chronic neck pain is not a necessary evil with the practice of dentistry and surgery. With truly ergonomic loupes and lights, we can prevent chronic neck pain and alleviate or even eliminate chronic neck pain or injuries.

If you have had a similar experience, this is important to share with your peers and with young clinicians. You may help someone avoid ending their career early and in pain. If you wish to share your story using the ErgoPractice News, you may contact me. If we publish your story, you will be recognized as a member of our Ergonomic Educators club. As a member, you will receive a special recognition award as well as special membership benefits. Just one example: the opportunity to evaluate brand new products!

Contact me with your story or suggestions. Together we can put an end to work-related pain!