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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.

Watch this short video on how seat adjustment impacts your lumbar spine & can lead to 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 new evidence-based low back pain video course:

 50% OFF your first Video Course

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Call Today:

P.O. Box 25552
Portland, Oregon 97298

Dr. Bethany Valachi

Beat Pain and Extend Your Career

Dr. Bethany Valachi has helped thousands of dental professionals for over 20 years, and is recognized internationally as an expert in dental ergonomics. Let Dr. Valachi help you work pain-free and take back your practice!

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