If you’re like me and have terrible posture, yet still wonder why your back hurts at the end of a procedure, then it never hurts to be reminded of proper ergonomics. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve had the privilege of good teachers, vigilant partners, and trial and error, so I’d like to highlight a few of the tips and cues that work for me.
One point I’d like to make before I get started is that ergonomics is a team sport. Don’t forget that your own proprioception is not the only tool you have at your disposal to fix your ergonomics. Recruit the help of a coworker, assistant, friend, or even a camera (yes, to film your own posture), because with different perspectives comes better ergonomics.
One of the fundamental pieces of advice I’ve received for general sitting posture is “shoulders back, chest high, and spine aligned.” I like to think as if there was a rod directly through my spine that is pulling me straight up off my seat. Other cues that have stuck with me are “ten toes down” as a reminder to always have your feet planted as a solid base, and “love your abs or they won’t love you back” as a reminder to continue to maintain some level of abdominal pressure to support your back.
In terms of more complicated situations of pain, I think it’s easy to overcompensate one way or another when things start to tighten up. For example, I struggled with lower back tightness, so I would be overly concerned with lumbar support and trying to compensate with more of an anterior pelvic tilt. I found out that I needed to take a step back and look at my overall position, which directed my attention to more upstream effects, like stretching out my hip rotators and elongating my upper body for more support. My point is that it is important to look at other areas of posture, even if it doesn’t directly involve the painful area.
All-in-all whether you’re pain-free or struggling to get in and out of a chair, it is always important to be comfortable and self-aware. I encourage you to make cheesy cues for yourself and implement daily/hourly reminders to help you stay vigilant. Our goal with ergonomics is longevity, so if you see others around you give them some feedback, because we’re all in this together! Go be great y’all, have a terrific day!
-Alex Fung, Midwestern Dental Class of 2022