ErgoPractice News – October 2019
Recently I attended a pain management seminar organized by a dental study club. I was one of the panel speakers along with experts in physical therapy, chiropractic care, medical pain management, and acupuncture. This seminar was a Q & A format with panelists who shared their knowledge in their fields.
The most common pains reported by these dental professionals were in the neck and upper shoulder regions (Figure 1). Many of them had been using loupes they had been told were ergonomic, but still developed chronic neck pain. Because they believed their loupes were ergonomic, most of them blamed their pain on old accidents, their pillows, and sports. They had not evaluated their working posture with their loupes.
The panelists’ opinion on pain was unanimous: the first thing clinicians must do if they have pain is to check their posture. If pain is in a specific area, such as the neck, clinicians should check their neck posture. In my observation, pain prevention is a far better solution than pain management. Wouldn’t you rather skip pain and injury than deal with it after it happens?
Clinicians’ Most Common Pain: Unsafe Working Posture
Excessive neck/head tilt is the main cause of these clinicians’ neck pain. Holding any body part out of balance stresses the supporting muscles and skeletal structure. Doing this for days and years on end can lead to excruciating pain and irreparable injury. Stress on the neck and spine increases exponentially if a person holds their neck forward more than 20 degrees.1 Therefore, your loupes should allow you to work comfortably and effectively with a neck tilt of less than 20 degrees.
Ergonomics Gap Analysis
We must maintain a neck tilt of less than 20 degrees in order to prevent strain and injury. However, many loupes marketed as ergonomic do not follow this principle. With that said, how can an issue with neck tilt be confirmed? The neck tilt angle can be found by comparing two side view photos: neutral posture and working posture (Figure 2).
Subtracting the work neck tilt from the neutral neck tilt demonstrates the impact of our loupes on our bodies.
The “Ergonomics Gap” is defined by the difference between the current working neck tilt angle and the safe neck tilt angle. If there is a large gap between the current posture and a safe working posture, we must eliminate this gap by using ergonomically-fitted loupes.
If we determine that non-ergonomic loupes are the root cause of this pain, but we do not eliminate the root cause, the pain and discomfort we experience will persist. Many clinicians who have not done this analysis rely on pain-treatments (chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, etc.) to manage symptoms. Without addressing the root cause, the pain will never go away and may lead to a severe neck injury.
Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong, yet many clinicians have not addressed the root cause of their discomfort: excessive neck tilt caused by non-ergonomic loupes. By resolving this issue using ergonomic loupes, the pain and injury that come with excessive neck tilt will also resolve! The answer to this problem is truly right on our nose.
SurgiTel’s Free Ergonomics Gap Analysis Service
SurgiTel offers a free “Ergonomics Gap Analysis” to help evaluate the working postures of clinicians. Our free service will help you evaluate the postures of all your team members. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your local technical sales representative.
Important note: Even if you work pain-free, many do not. Please share this article if you know someone working in pain. They may just find a solution by simply correcting their neck tilt!
- Valachi, Bethany. Practice Dentistry Pain-Free. Portland, Oregon: Posturedontics Press, 2008. www.posturedontics.com
- Pain and injury results from out-of-balance working postures
- Many loupes sold as “ergonomic” cause unhealthy posture and dangerous head/neck tilt
- Clinicians can determine if their pain is caused by neck tilt using photographs
- “Ergonomics Gap Analysis” is used to estimate a gap between current posture and safe working posture
- SurgiTel offers free “Ergonomics Gap Analysis” services to clinicians and their team members