Solving Work Related Pain in Dentistry

How to Resolve Low Back Pain in Dentistry

-Dr. Bethany Valachi-

Among the general population, about 1 in 6 people would tell you they’ve experienced low back pain in the past 12 months.  Among dental professionals, the prevalence is 1 in 2!

So what causes low back pain in dentistry?  There are numerous causes, including:

  • Non-ergonomic dental stools
  • Improper adjustment of the stool (i.e. sitting with thighs parallel to floor)
  • Poor fit of the stool to the operator
  • Poor body mechanics in the operatory
  • Incorrect patient positioning (poor control of the occlusal plane)
  • Incorrect rheostat position
  • Incorrect adjustment of double articulating headrest vs.flat headrest
  • Wrong exercises that worsen painful muscle imbalances
  • Up-regulation of the autonomic nervous system (especially unsatisfactory work environment & family conflict)
  • Trigger points

An important first step in resolving low back pain is ensuring that your dental stool is properly adjusted to maintain & support your lumbar curve.  Run through this checklist to ensure that your dental stool is supporting you, and not contributing to low back pain.

  1. Can you easily fit 3 fingers behind your knee without touching the seat?  If not, the seat pan is too deep, you may be ‘perching’ on the seat edge.  You should probably select a stool with a shorter seatpan.
  2. Are your hips higher than your knees?  If not, your lumbar curve is likely flattened–a risk factor for disc herniation.
  3. If you have a traditional stool, is your seat pan tilted slightly forward?  Tilting the seat forward facilitates a lumbar curve.
  4. If you have a saddle-style stool, is your seat adjusted flat?  Most people should keep the seat flat on saddle-style stools.
  5. Do you have hyper- or hypo-lordosis?  If so you’ll need to make adjustments to prevent low back pain.
  6. Is the backrest snugly contacting your back when you sit up straight?  Research shows that being in contact with a backrest is one of the most important factors in preventing low back pain.


Properly selecting & adjusting your dental stool is just the first step in preventing low back pain in dentistry! 

The next steps are equally important, and include:

  1. How to select an ergonomic dental stool that fits YOU!
  2. Perform a test to determine if you have hyper- or hypo-lordosis that requires special stool adjustment.
  3. Correctly positioning patient & headrest, for optimal posture
  4. Proper body mechanics in the operatory
  5. Correcting muscle imbalances with muscular endurance training
  6. Implementing effective, evidence-based therapies for low back pain
  7. Treating trigger points
  8. Down-regulating the autonomic nervous system

Want to resolve your low back pain NOW?

Check out Dr. Valachi’s evidence-based low back pain video course:

 50% OFF your first Video Course

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