Sitting Shouldn’t Have to Be a Job

By Timothy J. Caruso, PT, MBA, MS, Cert. MDT, CEAS

Sitting to work or working to sit? Most dental practitioners sit for the majority of the workday. Generally, dental professionals report experiencing discomfort in the back and neck areas most frequently (ADA membership survey 2007).

Therapeutic Dynamic Seating System

When observing dental professionals, we see that they tend to assume a number of awkward postures and positions during the course of their workday—sometimes referred to as “holding patterns.” The practitioners become so focused on their patients and the procedures they are performing, that they often disregard their position, posture, and level of discomfort. Over time, this can have a negative cumulative effect on their body, also afffecting the quality of their work. Pain in the shoulder, wrist, hand, or neck can prohibit the dental professional from completing the required procedures efficiently, effectively, and at the highest level of quality.

Over time, our bodies tend to accommodate the positions we assume. In addition, if we add age, osteoporosis, and muscular imbalance to the equation, we often find that we are in poor posture that becomes increasingly difficult to correct. Additionally, we find that the amount of stress that our bodies can tolerate becomes much lower and our discomfort and fatigue becomes much higher. Historically, standard solutions to these problems aren’t necessarily helpful or cost effective.

Taking a break or a little time off is rarely the answer to mounting pain or ongoing discomfort. With bills to pay and insurance companies getting more challenging to work with, the dental professional needs to be on their “A” game as much as possible. The economy is pushing everyone to do more with less.

Some things to consider:

  1. Are you accommodating to the patient or moving them to allow better access to the oral cavity?
  2. Are you “parked” in one position during the day or on the move?
  3. Do you balance your day or your schedule to alternate easy patients with more difficult ones?
  4. Do you take time off when you need it?
  5. Do you gradually increase your work schedule after time off?
  6. Are you taking pain medications on a regular basis?
  7. Are you treating yourself to regular massage or a chiropractic manipulation?
  8. Have you needed surgery?

Some good news—modern solutions are now available, starting with a new approach to an old, tried and true solution. Sitting up straight. There are a number of operator stools out there, but very few that don’t allow you to sit poorly. One in particular provides a dynamic seating surface with an adjustable backrest and available armrests. The Dynacore® by The Brewer Company has a dynamic air bladder under a contoured seating surface. This combination allows the practitioner to sit in an upright position, dynamically throughout the workday. Dynamic sitting allows the practitioner to work their postural muscles; their abdominals, trunk extensors, obliques, transversus abdominus, along with postural stabilizers—literally working your “core” while you sit. Preliminary research in this new area of sitting has shown increased levels of cortical brain activity along with improved attention span and continuous electromyographic muscular activity. This new approach facilitates a more balanced approach to sitting while counteracting the poor postures and typical “holding patterns” that can be detrimental to a fruitful, satisfying dental career. Give dynamic sitting a try. Sitting should not be a job, just another way to strengthen core muscles and increase work satisfaction.

Timothy J. Caruso is a practicing Physical Therapist who has focused his professional expertise in the area of manual therapy and orthopedics, specifically neuromusculoskeletal disorders. He has been credentialed in mechanical diagnosis and therapy from the McKenzie Institute USA and continues in private practice in treatment of spinal disorders. As Founder of Chicagoland Performance Consultants, Mr. Caruso currently works with industrial and professional organizations in the areas of management, job analysis, organizational dynamics, wellness, ergonomics, and injury prevention. He has worked extensively with the dental community since 1988. He continues with direct patient care at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Chicago and Community Physical Therapy, a private physical therapy practice. Tim has worked extensively with pediatric and adult populations with orthopedic conditions. He is very involved in seating and positioning for children and adults with special needs. In doing so, he has co-founded, and is president of, the Kids Equipment Network Childrens Charity providing medical equipment for children with special needs who have little or no funding. The Charity has helped over 150 children in the Chicagoland area since its inception.