Dentistry involves a high level of finesse, precision and control in situations that require enormous amounts of concentration. In an effort to keep patients comfortable, practitioners often compromise their own comfort and posture. As a result, musculoskeletal disorders and chronic pain are common among dental clinicians.
Text neck, scholar neck or poke neck are what you get when your head protrudes forward from its normal alignment. For every inch your head pokes out, you add 10 extra pounds of force on your neck. That’s a lot of unnecessary pressure on neck muscles and joints. Here are a few things you can do to fight forward head posture while you’re at work.
Keep your shoulders back and relaxed, and try not to let them creep up to your ears. Sit up as straight as possible without rounding your lower back and shoulders. Keep your neck in a neutral position. When you need to look down, bend at the waist.
Tuck your elbows
Position your elbows low and close to your body. Try not to let them flare out. Proper elbow alignment will help keep your shoulders in a safe zone and allow your neck to stay neutral.
Position your patient
Stop sticking your neck out. When necessary, ask your patient to angle their head to where you can get a better visual. Most patients are happy to accommodate the request and feel good about helping out.
Magnify your work
Magnification loupes can enhance visual acuity and improve neck posture. When purchasing loupes, consider working distance, declination angle, frame size and weight.
Light your way
A light can add weight to your loupes and cause muscle strain on your neck. Consider switching to a lightweight version or try an alternative light source. The Isolite System, for example, provides bright, long-lasting LED illumination inside the mouth, which eliminates the need for a light source on your head.
Between patients, do some chin tucks. It will look like you have a double chin when you do it, but the results will be worth it. In a neutral sitting posture, gently tuck your chin in and hold for five seconds. You’ll feel a nice stretch in the back of your neck. Repeat the tuck for a minute.
Your body is made to move. Cardio exercises and stretch routines that focus on balance and posture are excellent for fighting forward head posture.
Take time to stretch between patients, even if it’s just two or three minutes every hour. As a dental professional, you’re unlikely to get rid of the habit of looking down, so take breaks from it. Instead of rushing to your smartphone between patients, which requires more looking down, do some stretches or exercises.
Not only does forward neck posture look unattractive, it can also lead to chronic pain and muscular tightness. If you have chronic neck, shoulder or back pain, contact your physician or orthopedic specialist for an assessment. Don’t let your body become a pain in the neck.