ErgoPractice News – April 2019
Lately, more and more young clinicians are reporting experiencing neck pain and recently, a young dentist shared his story with us. It was a story of work-related pain, struggles towards a solution, and luckily it has a happy ending. For a long while, he tried various methods to manage his pain on his own, always working on symptoms but never getting to the root of the problem. Finally, he shared his problem with friends and they were able to piece together that his loupes were the main cause of his neck bend and his neck pain.
One of the first steps we can take toward a pain-free practice is purchasing the right tools and equipment. However, many clinicians and students unknowingly select improper non-ergonomic tools and equipment because of decisions being made based on insufficient or inaccurate information provided by sales reps or peers. Take for instance, the use of non-ergonomically designed loupes. These loupes will not create neck pain right away but will appear over time. Therefore, it is hard to diagnose. Young clinicians who buy non-ergonomic loupes while in school often recommend the same brand of loupes to their peers since they have not yet experienced working pain it may cause at this point.
Symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) progress over the years in several stages from mild to severe. There are a large number of stories about how improperly selected loupes have created serious neck pain or injuries when initial symptoms were ignored1. In order to avoid serious and even career-ending, work-related pain we should ideally find the main causes of pain during its earliest stages.
A Pain-Full Practice and a Journey Toward Relief
This dentist’s journey to find relief can be divided into several stages as followed:
Initial symptoms, working-pain, and headaches:
Shortly after dental school, this dentist started getting neck pain and headaches during and after performing procedures. His superiors experienced pain throughout their careers themselves, so they suggested pain and discomfort are just part of the job. For a long period of time, his only way to cope was to take pain management pills such as Ibuprofen. He then started to experience a more frequent and intense pain which became unmanageable.
The search for a solution:
About a year later, the clinician asked himself, “ I’m young. Why am I suffering? I have to practice dentistry for many more years to come.” This led to him researching ergonomics and muscle strengthening exercises.
He began to see a chiropractor several times a week regularly. He felt that chiropractic treatments definitely helped. But, when he had one rough day at work, he started feeling the same terrible pain again.
Discussing his working-pain with peers:
He asked his dental friends about pain to see if they were experiencing the same situation. Many were. Fortunately, one of his colleagues saw him bending his neck whenever he wore his loupes and suggested it may be related to his loupes. They smartly determined that neck pain was related to the unnatural bending of the neck at extreme angles for long periods of time. This led them to compare loupes and he soon realized that the declination angle (or ‘look-down’ angle) of his loupes from dental school was all wrong! He couldn’t believe that his so-called custom loupes were made in a way that directly hurt him. His friend suggested that he check out SurgiTel.
SurgiTel’s ergonomically-fitted loupes:
After switching to SurgiTel’s MultiPoint™ ergonomically-fitted loupes he soon realized he no longer had to strain his neck outside of the safe head tilt range (20 – 25 degrees or less) to see his targets. Thanks to his new pair of truly ergonomic loupes from SurgiTel, this dentist started working with his neck and body in a healthy position. His previous neck pain was from his neck tilt, and his neck tilt was forced by his non-ergonomic loupes. When he decided to not accept the pain, and to not keep his trouble a secret to himself, the solution of truly ergonomic loupes was presented.
This dentist is one of the few clinicians who tried to find the cause of his neck pain and headaches to solve the problem instead of accepting it. A large number of clinicians have accepted neck pain as just another part of their profession and needlessly suffer throughout their career, many ending their career early because of this work-related injury. It is important to note that neck pain is caused by traditional custom loupes which have been sold as ergonomic loupes by showing large declination angles. However, declination angles measured using the temple arm as the reference line is misleading2. The best way to evaluate loupe ergonomics is to measure the specific user’s head tilt angle.
If you use loupes and want to know if your loupes were made ergonomically correct, you can find your head tilt angle when wearing your loupes. You can easily do this with two side view photos. Figure 1 and Figure 2 shows a head tilt angle with traditional custom loupes. Figure 3 shows a head tilt angle with SurgiTel ergonomically-fitted loupes (SurgiTel TTL). Contact us if you would like our help with this analysis.
Working-Pain and Your Team
Our proposed, Team-based Participatory Ergonomics Promotion (TPEP) program is intended to aid clinicians in finding the right ergonomic solutions by sharing problems and knowledge. The successful implementation of TPEP will not only help the health of team members just like the clinician we spoke about talked with his peers, but also minimize scheduling problems due to calling in sick all while increasing productivity.
As we mentioned, you can easily evaluate your own head tilt angle and the angle of your peers by comparing side view photos of your neutral working posture and actual working posture. For a more complete breakdown of your head tilt send your neutral and working posture photos to ErgoNews@SurgiTel.com. SurgiTel can find your head tilt angle using a computer system and offer suggestions on how to improve your head tilt angle. Improve your work-life and alleviate neck pain today with SurgiTel’s ergonomic loupes.
For more information on the importance of ergonomics and the evaluation of your posture, contact your local field representative at www.SurgiTel.com/MyRep or 1-800-959-0153
- Chang, BJ. “Don’t Just Treat Your Symptoms, Eliminate the Cause of Your Working Pain”, ErgoPractice News, December 2017. https://surgitel.com/dont-just-treat-your-symptoms-eliminate-the-cause-of-your-working-pain/
- Chang, BJ. “Demystifying Declination Angle”, ErgoPractice News, July 2017. https://surgitel.com/demystifying-declination-angle/