Have you ever had the experience where you are working on your first patient of the day and you are already beginning to feel muscle tightness and pain? Perhaps your patient cannot open wide or recline very far in the dental chair and it causes you to lean down into awkward positions. Thoughts of a long and uncomfortable day are immediately swirling through your head.
When this situation occurs, please know that you are not doomed to suffer through the remainder of your patient schedule. Take control and try out these sneaky in-office stretches to help you relieve your discomfort. Your body will thank you.
Relax Your Shoulders
Shoulder stretches are an essential part of a comfortable workday. Once tension starts to build, it tends to progress as the day goes on. Shoulder retractions are a great way to quickly loosen knotted muscles. Begin by putting your hands behind your back and interlacing your fingers. Next, draw your elbows toward each other, and your shoulders will stretch back as a result. Hold this position for eight seconds and repeat if time allows. This stretch can conveniently be used while you are waiting for a patient exam by the dentist.
Release Tension in Your Wrists and Hands
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a serious concern for any dental hygienist and protecting yourself begins with a few simple exercises. You can easily incorporate any one of these stretches into your work routine while the dentist is performing the patient exam.
- Make a tight fist with one hand, then release and spread out your fingers. Repeat this five times for each hand.
- Pull your thumb back and away from your palm for five seconds. Repeat this five to 10 times for each hand.
- Keep your pointer and middle fingers extended, while the rest are down (like a peace sign). Next, draw five clockwise circles in the air with your raised fingers rotating your wrists as you go, then repeat in a counterclockwise motion. Repeat for the opposite hand.
Loosen Your Forearms
According to Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, upper extremity stretches, such as wrist flexion and wrist extension, can help prevent your hands and wrists from developing problems. The wrist flexion is done by raising your arm out in front of you with your elbows straight. Then bend your hand downward with your palm facing towards you. The wrist extension involves raising your arm out again, but this time your palm will be facing outward as you bend it downward. Find time for this exercise in between patients or while waiting for an exam.
Relieve Tightness in Your Lower Back
It can difficult to find a quick in-office stretch that relieves back pain. Dental Economics describes a modified pelvic tilt that strengthens lower back muscles and can be done in a few minutes. First, flatten your lower back firmly against the back of a chair or wall. Then hold in your abdominal muscles, and next contract all the muscles by standing and seating while doing a harder pelvic tilt. You can also loosen your side muscles by stretching to one side, holding for half-a-minute then alternating to the other side while doing the pelvic tilts. This exercise can best be done if there is a break between patients or during your lunch break.
Musculoskeletal disorders are a serious concern that can force dental hygienists to reduce their work hours or to retire from the profession entirely. When you are able to relieve tension in a convenient and quick fashion, your workday is a more positive experience and the probability of long-term injuries is reduced. All the stretches listed above will give you the valuable tools to protect your body and keep you working comfortably.
- Take charge of your workday if you are feeling any pain.
- Make time to integrate stretches into your daily routine in the dental office.
- Help prevent wrist, back, neck, and shoulder injuries by stretching regularly.
Why It's Important
A workday in dental hygiene should not have to be a painful experience. When we tackle discomfort with in-office stretches, you are helping to ensure that you can perform to your fullest potential.