February 13, 2011

My Aching Back: What’s a Dentist to Do?

Dentist’s have always sacrificed their bodies during dental procedures for the sake of doing a better job.  Leaning over the patient to see something directly, or having to stand because the patient doesn’t want to lay back far enough for you to sit in your chair comfortably is the prescription for a bad back.

W.C. Fields "The Dentist"

Chronic back pain can be caused by many things.  The chronic back pain from dentistry usually comes from lactic acid building up in you back muscle, just like the chronic lactic acid pain from myofacial pain can be caused by poor occlusion.

I too had this back pain problem earlier in my dental career, and fussed with it until I decided to do something about it.  Here are some of the ways I coped with back stain at my practice:

  • First, I hired a massage therapist to come to my house once a week for a fullbody massage.  You might think this is a little excessive to start out with, and it may be if you are struggling as a new practitioner.  It costs me $100 per week and is well worth it.  He comes about 8:00 pm on Tuesday nights, and I look forward to it every week.
  • I purchased a massage chair for the office.  I purchased it at one of the trade shows, and it is now setup in our staff lounge were everyone can use it.  It is frequently used at lunch and during breaks.
  • Thera Cane is a product I recommend every dental office purchase.  It is cheap and easy to use.  It looks like a big “J” which can be used to massage ones own back with considerable pressure if need be.
  • When we moved into our new office about 5 years ago I purchased nice ergonomic chairs for the operators and assistants.  We bought them for the front desk and office manager as well.  Good move!  Nothing is like a well fitted adjustable chair to sit in for hours at a time. I have already spied better chairs than mine at the last ADA Convention in Orlando.
  • Magnification: The number one way to force your body into better posture is through magnification. Whether it be with loops or with a microscope, magnification can be individually calibrated to make your back perfectly straight when viewing a patient mouth.  I use the 4.8X loops from Orascoptic, but am wanting to some day get a microscope.
  • Exercises:  There are many different back exercises one can do during the day to help their back cope with the everyday stress and stains of doing dentistry.  My favorite one is rolling up in a ball on the floor and rocking back and forth on my back.  This will massage out the lactic acid built up in the muscles and spread out the vertebrae melting away your woes.  Sometimes I use a big exercise ball to roll over for this purpose.
  • Traction: This is very easy to do on your own.  Just get one of those chin-up bars that attaches in the threshold of a door and hang from that for a while. If you are tall, find something else to hang from.  It will spread out your vertebra and stretch all the muscles in your back.  I have a brother-in-law who is also a dentist.  His back hurt so bad at one time that he purchase a contraption that actually hung himself upside-down!
  • Good shoes:  I used to wear my shoes until they literally fell off my feel.  I hated to go shopping for anything, especially shoes.  Not anymore!  I like to wear relatively new shoes, and I put arch supports in them to boot.  I be gelling!

With these techniques I have actually never had to go to a Chiropractor.  Some people will find a Chiropractor useful, but they have the same office hours as we do, and scheduling is usually a problem.  That is unless you can find one to show up at your house Tuesdays at 8:00 pm!

I hope this is good information for those who suffer from back problem at their dental practice.