As dental hygienists, we play a vital role in maintaining the oral health of our patients. However, the nature of our work puts us at high risk for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including neck and back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and even eye strain. The key to preventing these injuries and maintaining a long-lasting career in dentistry lies in understanding the relationship between posture and ergonomics. In this blog post, we will delve into the importance of posture, how it affects our health, and practical tips to improve ergonomics in our daily practice.
Why Posture Matters
Posture refers to the alignment of our bodies when sitting, standing, or moving. Good posture is essential for maintaining the natural curves of the spine and reducing stress on our joints, muscles, and ligaments. As dental hygienists, we spend most of our time sitting or standing at work, making us susceptible to neck pain—the leading cause of discomfort in our profession. Proper posture ensures that we work smarter, not harder, reducing fatigue and the risk of injury.
The Impact of Poor Posture on Health
Poor posture can have severe consequences on our health, as shared by NIH here. Slouching or hunching over puts extra strain on our neck, shoulders, and back, leading to chronic conditions like spinal disc degeneration, arthritis, and spinal stenosis. It can also result in headaches and fatigue, affecting our overall well-being. On the other hand, maintaining good posture not only prevents pain and injuries but also improves digestion, circulation, and breathing—a crucial aspect of a balanced system.
Understanding the Relationship Between Posture and Ergonomics
According to OSHA, ergonomics is the science of designing products and workspaces to optimize human performance, comfort, and safety. For dental hygienists, ergonomics is particularly vital, as we spend a significant amount of time in a seated position, often in awkward and uncomfortable positions. Proper posture serves as the foundation for sound ergonomics. By practicing neutral posture and using ergonomically designed equipment like saddle stools and ergonomic loupes, we can reduce strain on our bodies and enhance overall well-being.
Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics
- Focus on Posture: Throughout the day, be mindful of your posture, whether at work, in the car, or during other activities. Make minor adjustments to build muscle memory and establish better habits. Engaging in practices like yoga therapy, pilates, and strength training can also help improve posture.
- Take Breaks & Stretch: Take regular breaks when sitting or standing for extended periods. Incorporate stretches to improve circulation and reduce tension in overworked muscles. Breathing exercises can also help relax the mind and body during patient appointments.
- Adjust Your Workspace: Ensure your workspace supports your body. Position yourself and your patient in a way that allows for a neutral posture throughout appointments. Optimize the placement of equipment, tools, and accessories to minimize strain.
As dental hygienists, we must prioritize our well-being and career longevity. By understanding the importance of posture and its relationship to ergonomics, we can create a healthier and more comfortable work environment. Improving posture not only reduces the risk of pain and injuries but also enhances overall health and well-being. By adopting a holistic approach to our well-being, focusing on posture, and implementing ergonomic solutions, we can pave the way for a long-lasting and fulfilling career in dentistry.
Change Your Posture, Change Your Life
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The Aligned Hygienist Program: Yoga & Ergonomics for
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Are you a dental hygienist who’s ready to overcome or prevent chronic pain & injuries while mastering your ergonomics with ease and a proven system? Meet The Aligned Hygienist Program.
About the Author
My name is Caitlin, I’m a chronic pain survivor, Certified Yoga Therapist, Registered Dental Hygienist, and founder and CEO of Caitlin Parsons Yoga Therapy, a yoga therapy and wellness company. I recently made my dreams a reality by quitting my full-time job as a dental hygienist to pursue my passion and purpose helping others get back into alignment.
Now I use my personal and professional experiences with chronic pain, stress and anxiety, and injury recovery to help women step back into their own alignment – in their bodies, minds and throughout their lives. I help empower women to create balance in their bodies and minds so they can access greater levels of freedom in their lives inside my monthly membership program (Aligned), group coaching program for hygienists (The Aligned Hygienist), a Yoga + Coaching Program for Dental Teams, and private yoga therapy coaching.
I love to share my knowledge and expertise on mindfulness and therapeutic yoga for back pain through my blog and social media platforms as well as guest appearances on other inspiring and like-minded podcasts.
Curious about the different ways I support Dental Professionals?
Client Success Stories
“I started working with Caitlin because I was tired of being in pain all the time and had learned about yoga therapy from a friend. I had such bad hip pain, it hurts to sit down, get up, exercise and walk around. The pain moved down my leg sometimes and up into my low back.
Now I feel amazingly strong, am able to actually bend down and reach my shoes so I can tie them! I gained an immense amount of strength in my hips as well as have learned many things I can do on my own to keep going in the right direction. I really enjoyed the one on one time! And the fact that Caitlin came to my house was amazing. I had no excuses to not show up for myself and the results paid off! I have already recommended Caitlin to my friends and will continue to do so.” – Cary
“I started working with Caitlin because I had recently gotten surgery from a brain tumor. I had very little mobility in my shoulder and arm. I was concerned that the lack of mobility, discomfort and reduced strength would increase chances for more pain and injury. Working with Caitlin was amazing, I would recommend her personal approach to anyone. She is dedicated to her work, has great knowledge and communication. Caitlin does a wonderful job guiding you back to your body and yourself.” – Ania
“I started working with Caitlin because I had chronic low back pain and regular flare-ups. I was told by multiple doctors that I would always be in pain and my posture would never improve unless I had surgery. The pain got so bad that I couldn’t play volleyball anymore, which created a negative spiral in my mood, energy and throughout my life. The results I got with Caitlin was amazing. I no longer have chronic pain or chronic acid reflux which I was on medication for. I’m much healthier and happier now than I ever have been!” – Russ M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I had neck pain, shoulder pain, neck congestion and ringing in my ears. I was working a lot, taking care of my family, and I was beginning to spiral downwards in a state of stress and pain. With all of that, life became a chore. I wanted to learn how to take care of myself so I could live a happy life and take care of my responsibilities from a place of joy, not dread. I wanted to get my neck to a place where it wasn’t painful and tightening every time I was stressed.
Now I no longer have neck pain or tightness, I’m stressed and ear ringing has greatly reduced. My body feels so much better as a whole. Caitlin helped me find peace. Caitlin has an innate sense of knowing how to tailor each session to fit how I’m feeling in my body and what I need. Caitlin helped me change the way I react to stress; now I’m more mindful of my reactions and the way I take care of my body. I’m stronger in my body and mind now which has positively affected my entire life.” – Donna M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I was completely disconnected from my body because of a genetic disease, having constant, chronic pain, extreme trouble sleeping and anxiety living in my own skin. I wanted to feel better- I wanted to have less pain and have a better quality of life–building strength and reconnecting with my body were a bonus. Working with Caitlin exceeded my expectations- I sleep so much better now and my pain has improved significantly. I’m less anxious and have practices to help when my symptoms flare. I’m more grounded and embodied, I have a daily yoga practice that continues to build on the foundation Caitlin helped me create.
Caitlin is incredible, she validated me and helped me work on my whole self. She customized everything to work specifically for me. I 100% recommend working with Caitlin. She believed that healing was possible and she held that vision for me and brought it to each session, and eventually I believed and embodied it too. She helped me find the power in every single baby step towards a more whole and healthy life, and I am completely transformed by it. This work isn’t the quick fix, it’s deep, holistic, soul-led healing.” – Hayley
“Working with Caitlin was the best thing I ever did for myself. I thought that I would always have pain because I’ve done so many things to try and help but they haven’t worked, until yoga therapy with Caitlin. Now I am living with less pain, my posture has improved, I am getting stronger, and my clothes are getting looser.” – Joan
“Before I came to Caitlin, I was taking Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis like clockwork. I would skip going to the pool or out with my family after work due to the pain in my body. I was very depressed and isolating myself from activities that I really enjoy doing with my family and friends. I had pain on a daily basis in my lower back, shoulder blades, hips and left knee. Some days I had so much pain and inflammation in my body I felt like I couldn’t make it through the day.
Since starting FTF I am slowly starting to get control of my pain and inflammation through the online program one-on-one sessions with Caitlin. Inflammation is decreasing, I’m sitting up taller and I’m more aware of my posture both at work and in my daily routines outside of work. I am no longer having to take Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis and I am able to walk longe distances without pain in my knees. “
“I never thought I would get out of back, knee, and postural pain. I also have a curvature in my back that I have been told most of my life cannot be changed. When I came to Caitlin, I wasn’t playing my favorite sport and I was miserable at work. Even doing simple things was really painful. Caitlin completely personalizes her services based on your needs. She takes considerable time to answer all of my questions and targets my sessions for exactly what I need that day and what my goals are. Caitlin always asks me what is going on and listens really well. She is a wealth of knowledge about yoga, human anatomy, and how humans should move. No two sessions are the same. We changed the way I move while doing simple things like sitting in a car or at my desk, putting dishes away and bending over to clean dog poop so that my back is protected from re-injury. I am healing my back partly to return to playing volleyball. I now understand how to be in my volleyball stances and movements so that I can avoid injury when I get back to playing. I am already standing up much straighter and feel more confident. I never thought I would feel this good in my body and I am so wow-ed by Caitlins mastery of her craft.” – Russel
“Caitlin really knows how to curate yoga program for sustainable strengthening. My shoulders and core used to be weaknesses but after a few sessions I see my posture has improved and the range of motion in my shoulders. She’s caring, fun, and a pleasure to work with. I’d recommend her to anyone interested in trying yoga therapy.”
“Caitlin is fantastic. I’ve gone to many of her classes, specifically those with a focus on healthy backs. I’ve worked with her as a therapist on issues I have with my neck and shoulders from work. She’s patient, attentive and offers focused one-on-one sessions. The exercises I’ve done really help me combat the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day, highly recommend working with this lovely and professional woman!!”
“Caitlin has helped me grow and learn a lot about myself. She helped me realize the strong power of breath when I was over stressed and unaware of my mental needs. Caitlin helped me focus my energy, both good and bad, on my breath. With every deep inhale and cleansing exhale, I felt my stress and anxiety lessen and lessen. Eight years later, my main mantra is to ‘just breathe.’ It has literally changed my life. Along with the power of breath, Caitlin has helped me keep a constant awareness of how I physically hold myself. Not only has my posture changed, but I have also become stronger and my confidence has increased. I recently began running and was having pain in my hip and side leg. Through working with Caitlin, my pain subsided. She put together an easy to follow yoga sequence that helped my muscles and ligaments heal. I fully trust in Caitlin as a yoga professional, and recommend her gentle way of teaching to anyone.”
“This program has been so amazing for my pain. In just one class, my neck and shoulder tension released more than it has in years. This program has been so instrumental in managing and controlling my stress. It’s so easy to be “on the hamster wheel”. I look forward to my yoga time and meditation and have noticed a huge difference in my pain level. My family has even noticed my calmer demeanor. I couldn’t believe how much my pain was linked to my stress.”