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Ten Tips to prevent back and shoulder aches

in Your Health

Ten Tips to prevent back and shoulder aches

Sharon studied a Bachelor of Dental Science at the University of Western Australia. Sharon say's "I wanted to write this article as my colleagues and I all suffer with back pain and I wanted to address these issues."

A friend of mine once confessed he never understood why dentists were so highly regarded. Especially as we only "clean the teeth". In fact, he professed that a hairdresser should be paid and respected much more. "You see..." he claims, "hair is difficult to cut, has to be symmetrical on both sides and very need skill for that!" Needless to say, we are no longer friends.

All jokes aside, there are some similarities between a dentist and a hairdresser. Both require manual dexterity, involve staying still for an extended period of time and often can place us in awkward postures. Thus, I have compiled ten tips to prevent or reduce shoulder and backaches.

Time Out

Dentistry constantly involves holding the same position. Regardless of how good your posture may be, it is not ideal to be holding a position for an extended period of time. Whenever you can (in between patients, whilst waiting for an X-ray), give your body a break. Shake your fingers out, roll your shoulders back, stretch your neck out, jog on the spot...anything to get the blood flowing through.


As expensive and unnecessary as acupuncture, physiotherapy or chirotherapy might seem, it is essential to the prevention of back and shoulder aches. Remember that when pain does come along, it is usually too late. As we always say, prevention is better than cure. So for those of you with no symptoms, book yourself in and have the therapist advise you where the knots/ kinks are in your body and any lifestyle adjustments required. Chances are though that they will find some dysfunction requiring further correction.


Exercise helps by strengthening the core and back muscles to allow natural back support whilst yoga and stretching relieves tension and eases tightness. Jogging is also very effective. This is a trick I learnt from my chiropractor, jogging works by "shaking" the muscles out. However, jogging is only effective when done correctly. Some tips include to relax your arms/shoulders when running, shake out your limbs and to jog for a minimum of 20 minutes. Speed does not matter here. It is the act of shaking the muscles that relieve tension and reduce shoulder/backache.


Sleep is important to soothe inflamed joints and repair muscle strain. The three most common sleeping positions include on your back, side on and on your stomach. If you commonly sleep on your back, then you're in luck. Sleeping on your back allows the mattress to support your spine and does not contort the back into unnatural positions. However, snorers should be wary as the supine position is often linked to more frequent cases of snoring and sleep apnoea. To increase back support for back sleepers, place a pillow under your knees to maintain the lower curvature in the back.

Side sleeping is often recommended for pregnant women and those with heartburn or acid reflex. For those constantly sleeping on their side, pressure from the body onto one arm can restrict blood flow and result in transient numbness or pins and needles. In this position, the neck and the shoulder are bearing the bulk of the body's weight and suffering additional strain. The solution? Avoid lying onto your arm and take the strain off your back by drawing your legs up slightly towards your chest and placing a thick pillow between your legs. Aim to eventually transition yourself into a back sleeper.

Stomach sleepers are placing their bodies in a constant state of hyperextension, resulting in the most lower back strain. Sleeping on your stomach also inevitably results in the head being turned to one side, straining the neck. Try to use pillows to gradually transition into a side sleeper and eventually, onto your back. If this is a position you must sleep in, place a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen and go without a pillow under your head.


Watch out for your posture. Invest in dental loupes and a fibre optic light that will prevent you from hunching over and straining your eyes. Request for your dental nurse to gently remind you if they notice you are consistently working in an uncomfortable position.

Dental assistance

Aside from having your nurse remind you about correct posture, make sure your nurse is also doing their job. Don't be afraid to (respectfully) show them where you prefer them to be and make things easier for you. Having sufficient suction, retraction and instruments within your reach will allow you to have better posture.

Consider your weight

Being in a profession where lunch breaks can be short and work hours long, it's natural to find the extra pounds creeping up. Apart from the increased risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer and reproducibility, it also places additional pressure onto your joints. This predisposes to osteoarthritis and many find that weight reduction can relieve back and joint pain.

Brace off

Back braces are fantastic for backache sufferers. For those unfamiliar with this, it is essentially a support designed to protect the lower back and relieve muscular and joint stress during activity; the equivalent of a Michigan splint for the spine. As tempting as it is to always have your back brace on, avoid wearing it all the time. If you're constantly relying on your back brace, your core and back muscles will weaken and lead to poor posture.

Stop tensing

When stressed or practising on patients, many dentists often unconsciously clench their jaws or tense their shoulders. If you are one of these people or have heard others comment about it, try to have someone watch out for this and remind you to relax. This will reduce constant tension on your muscles.


It's not easy getting all our minerals and vitamins into the day. For those of us looking into supplements to avoid back pain, consider glucosamine, flaxseed oil, calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C.

Always remember looking after your back is looking after your career. You don't want it to be cut short because of back pain.

Sharon Fan


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