Is this shutdown giving your body a much-needed rest? Listen this week as Cindy explains how to identify trigger points and what our body is trying to tell us when we experience that acute pain.
Multiple decades (!) of clinical dental hygiene has fueled Cindy’s passion for equity of care. Currently, she developed a hybrid traditional/virtual dental practice in her rural community. By providing training and strategic development that emphasize alternative, collaborative, or independent workforce models, she utilizes teledentistry as a platform to redefine dental hygiene careers.
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This TIPisode has been transcribed for you viewing pleasure:
Cindy Purdy: So we’ve all had a little bit of unexpected time away from our jobs lately, haven’t we? So I’m wondering how you are all feeling now that you’ve reduced your amount of twisting and turning and grasping small instruments and reaching over patients. And I’m hoping that some of you feel a little better, that we’ve all kind of taken this time to take care of ourselves.
The last time I was on here, I spoke about developing musculoskeletal disorders and how they are inherent to the profession that we are in and to the tasks that we must perform. We talked about a little bit just a little review of how they happen — which is overexertion, overuse, strenuous exercise, repetitive motion — and how they feel and how they start initially with just a little bit of “I’m feeling tired” until it moves to “I’m exhausted” to “I’m completely fatigued,” and that’s when damage starts.
So this time I want to talk about “so what?”, basically. So what? What if I have to do these things. I have got a time schedule that I’ve got to hit. I’ve got patients out there waiting for me. Somebody just threw in a patient that I wasn’t expecting. So, so what? What happens to me? I’m young. I can get through this. What happens if I develop a musculoskeletal disorder?
Well, let’s just talk quickly. Let’s just picture here initially our head and the muscles that are around it. What if I have to bend to see that patient just out past neutral position? What am I actually doing to the muscles? So, if you talk about your spine — and you’ve got muscles on actually all four sides to hold it up, but let’s just talk about side to side or front to back. When you are pulling your head out of neutral position, pulling it forward, let’s say, because that’s what most of us do, what happens is the muscles on the front of your neck become shorter and stronger and the muscles on the back of your neck become longer and weaker.
And the front ones become so strong that they actually can move the neck forward, the bone, the spine, physically move it forward. And, when that happens, when those symmetrical changes happen, it results in a decreased range of motion. You won’t be able to turn, or you’ll be able to turn less on one side and more on the other before you start to feel a little resistance. Those muscles become immobilized basically. That’s why you have that decreased range of motion. It can result in headaches and what I call the “hygiene hump.” I carry one around with me all the time from multiple years of not using the proper equipment such as loupes, light, and saddle stool.
And what happens is then those mus — now we’re asking muscles to hold us in place instead of bone. Remember, bone supports muscles. Muscles are not supposed to support our bones. And so, when we ask our muscle to support those bones, that means they’re in constant contraction, and our muscles need to have a break. Even our heart muscle takes a break every now and then. And the reason we need that break is because when our muscles are in constant contraction, we’re obstructing the blood vessels that bring in fresh oxygenated blood and that take the waste products away. And so, when the muscle’s in contraction, the new blood can’t flow in, and the waste products cannot be removed.
And, when those waste products accumulate, we end up with what’s called a trigger point in the muscle. And a trigger point is our muscle fibers that were never able to relax, and they result in acute pain. And I know that y’all have felt those because those are the spots when we come home from clinic that we ask our significant other “Can you massage just right there? Right there. Right there. Right there. That’s it. That’s the spot.” If you have acute pain like that, you have an active trigger point that you did not release those muscle fibers all day. And, if you don’t treat that immediately or at some point, it will become latent. And the symptoms of a latent trigger point is you have stiffness and that restricted range of motion that I was talking about.
And I have many people who say, “Oh, I’m okay. I just sit motionless. I’m not really moving my arm around. I’m — it’s hanging — you know, I’m chicken-winging it, but I’m not moving it.” Well, it actually takes more muscle strength to remain motionless. You use 50 percent of your body’s muscles just to remain motionless, and they’re contracted, so long term you end up with a lot of these trigger points, and that’s where our pain comes from.
There are aids that can help relieve those trigger points. They’re called the — there’s a product called Thera Cane that I really like. You can get all these on Amazon. They don’t — it doesn’t cost a lot to help with these ergonomic solutions. And then there are quite a few books that have been written by people in the dental profession or closely related to the dental profession with regards to exercising and keeping those muscle balanced because the idea that a — if you have a physical trainer, what they are supposed to do is to balance those muscles to make the ones in the front just as strong as the ones in the back. Now, if you have a physical trainer, you need to tell them what you do all day long because if they know that we are hunched over and our shoulders are rounded all day, they’re going to give you exercises that will help bring them back so that your muscles will be balanced.
But the books that I like, there’s one by Bethany Valachi. It’s called Practicing Dentistry Pain-Free. I think every dental professional should be graduating with that book. Bethany also has a set of exercises called “On the Ball Home Exercises,” and it is brilliant that she has put us on a ball to exercise for the very reasons that I just said. If we have rounded our shoulders forward all day, doing exercises on that ball will stretch our should back. It’s — she’s brilliant.
You can find Bethany’s information at posturedontics.com. And, if you ever get a chance to go listen to Bethany Valachi speak and lecture on ergonomics, run, don’t walk. She’s brilliant.
And the other book that I really like is called Mind Your Body for the Seated — Pilates for the Seated Professional. And that is written by Juli Kagan. She is a dental hygienist, so she, too, has an idea of the type of positioning that we have to do in the dental profession all day long.
So those are my tips for today, and this TIPisode is proudly sponsored by Crown Seating. And Crown Seating will be giving away, once again, through A Tale of Two Hygienists is — will be giving away another saddle stool this month. So, if you stay tuned and listen to Michelle, she’ll give you just a little bit more information on how to make that happen.
Thank you all for listening, and everybody stay home and stay safe. Bye.
Michelle Strange: Thanks for listening to another TIPisode. We are excited to announce that you can win a Crown Seating saddle stool. Click the link in our show notes and enter to win. You can also find out more at crownseating.com. Don’t forget to hit the subscribe button in your podcast app. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram, and head over to our website, ataleoftwohygienists.com, to sign up for our newsletter. We appreciate all ratings and reviews. Thank you for listening to your unofficial dental hygiene podcast.