Solving Work Related Pain in Dentistry

Exercises that Dental Professionals Should Avoid!

-Dr. Bethany Valachi-

When it comes to exercise, dental professionals should look to the evidence!  Dental professionals are prone to painful muscle imbalances which can be exacerbated by exercises that are not a problem for the general public. This is why generic exercise regimens (P90X, Pilates, Yoga and Crossfit) need to be modified to remove those harmful exercises that can throw them into the vicious pain cycle!

Unbalanced Muscles – Exercise Caution!

Fig 1A Primary shoulder girdle stabilizing muscles.
Fig 1B Muscles that compensate when stabilizer muscles fatigue.










In order to perform the precision tasks of dentistry, the arms must have a stable base from which to operate.  For example, dentistry requires excellent endurance of the shoulder girdle stabilizing muscles, for safe shoulder movement and working posture (Fig 1A).   These shoulder stabilizing muscles tend to fatigue quickly with forward head, rounded upper back and elevated arm postures-all  commonly seen among dental professionals.  When these muscles fatigue, other muscles must compensate and become overworked, tight and ischemic (Fig 1B)


Fig 2 Vertical row 

The Vertical Row exercise can easily exacerbate the above imbalance and lead to painful trapezius myalgia (Fig. 2).  Trapezius myalgia is an ischemic condition in the upper trapezius (the most active muscle when delivering dental care). The Vertical Row is an anaerobic exercise which further starves the upper trapezius of oxygen and can worsen the condition.





Fig 3 Deltoid lifts 

A delicate muscle balance also exists in the rotator cuff, that can be worsened by improper ergonomics and incorrect exercise.  Dental professionals are highly prone to rotator cuff impingement when they work with the arms lifted away from the sides only 30 degrees!  This imbalance can be further worsened by strengthening the deltoids and supraspinatus, which can lead to rotator cuff impingement or tear in the rotator cuff tendon. (Fig 3)






Fig. 5 The Superman exercise

According to biomechanics expert, Dr. Stuart McGill, the ‘Superman’ exercise places unsafe compressive loads on the lumbar spine and should be avoided by persons prone to low back pain. (Fig. 5)  An article in Dental Economics, written by a recently graduated dentist, recommends the Superman Exercise as ‘The One Exercise All Dentists Need to Do’. YIKES! It’s a scary world out there on the internet, and everything written on health needs to be thoroughly vetted for evidence-based content, expertise of the author and bias.



There are many more exercises, gym machines, pilates, P90x, Crossfit & yoga exercises that should be modified or eliminated entirely in Dr. Valachi’s white paper: “14 Exercises That Can Worsen Dental Professionals’ Health”.

CLICK HERE to access the Exercise White Paper,

and much more free dental ergonomic & wellness information!


Dr. Valachi developed the  Home Exercise for Dental Professionals video kit  to correct all of the unique muscle imbalances to which dental professionals are predisposed.  This is an evidence-based exercise regimen that fuses dental ergonomic movements, yoga, pilates and traditional physical therapy to help you prevent pain and improve your quality of life.  Access your videos on any mobile device–videos never expire.


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