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3.31.06 Issue #212

Got Pain?

Risa Pollack-Simon, CMC

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The human  body is a fascinating machine. The brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves regulate all functions of the body and together are the source of all power. Following the universal laws of gravity, the body relies on balance for spinal efficiency. 

Regrettably, in dentistry most clinicians constantly move from balanced postures to extremely unbalanced postures in an effort to access the oral cavity. The body, in its infinite wisdom, adapts to imbalances by twisting and turning other body parts to compensate for these deviations. This can cause vertebrae to get lodged into abnormal positions, create restrictions in motion and result in nerve interferences and hypersensitivity; all of which cause spinal weakness, instability, muscle spasm, physical strain and pain, and emotional stress - symptoms all too familiar to the dental profession!

Health & Fitness

Fitness (both cardio-respiratory fitness and muscle fitness), can be defined as the body’s ability to efficiently function.

Cardio-respiratory fitness is the most important aspect of a fitness program, as it regulates the heart and blood vessels ability to transport oxygen from the lungs to the body’s  tissues. When oxygen can be transported efficiently, blood can be transported more efficiently to the organs and systems of the body. Efficient blood flow is vitally important, as it is responsible for nutrient supply and for removing muscle metabolism byproducts, which supports optimum performance.

Muscle fitness plays a much different role in the function of the body. Good muscle fitness refers to the muscle’s ability to operate at maximum capacity with full range of motion. Muscle fitness can be greatly impaired by using poor positions that shorten structures or from muscular injuries.

Muscles can also atrophy as we age. In fact, it is believed that after the age of 35, all humans lose approximately a half-pound of muscle and gain a pound and a half of fat in its place each year!   That said, muscles need to be stretched and challenged to remain strong and healthy.  

Suggestions for stretching before performing dental procedures would include the distal forearm, the hand and finger muscles, and the muscles of the shoulder girdle, neck and back. While stretching is beneficial, over-stretching can cause tears in the soft tissue, which can also lead to injury – so be certain to stretch intermittently for short periods of time.

The real “prize inside” from moving and stretching your body is seen through improved blood cholesterol balance, lower blood pressure, stress relief, physical fitness and weight control - plus a perception of diminished stress and greaterjob satisfaction!

In other words, if you do things that make you ‘feel good’ and help your mind unwind at the end of each workday (such as cardio-respiratory exercise, muscle stretching and stress reduction techniques like audio relaxation and meditation three to four times a week), your body will no doubt show its appreciation through improved health, physical fitness and well-being. 

Listen to your body! Don’t wait for those aches and pains to affect the precision of the care you provide - or worse, cause you to leave the field entirely as a number of your colleagues have been forced to do. Learn from clinicians who had to leave the field and sadly express that the pain from leaving the field was far more debilitating than the musculoskeletal disorder itself! 

Now is the time to make a positive difference in your health! Begin by respecting your body as the most powerful resource for improved health. Next, commit to a renewed awareness of sitting in balanced positions, minimizing movement and optimizing the use of your auxiliaries for greater efficiency and comfort. Most importantly, seek to find the discipline to incorporate more efficient work habits into each day and make cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness a way of life. In doing so, you’ll be handsomely rewarded for many years to come! 

For more information how to work in a balanced position, optimize the layout of equipment and technology, maximize the use of chairside assistants, enhance time and motion efficiency, levels of productivity – and reduce musculoskeletal risks  click here to order All The Right Moves! By Risa Simon

Risa Simon, CMC is a professional speaker, published author and a certified management consultant who is passionately dedicated to helping dental professionals enhance team harmony, operational efficiency and practice profitability.  

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