Many dentists and dental hygienists work for hours performing repetitive movements with their hands and wrists, grasping the same instruments all day for the majority of their work. As one would expect, over time many develop musculoskeletal disorders that cause the bones and muscles in their hands and wrists to fatigue and, in later stages, exhibit chronic pain. In fact, research shows that 82.7% of dental professionals reported at least one symptom of musculoskeletal disease in the past 12 months.1
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, because there are many preventative measures, exercises, and remedies that can help to ease and even overcome hand and wrist fatigue if consistently put into practice.
Here are a few easy exercises that, when done every day or at least multiple times per week, help dentists and hygienists keep their hands and wrists flexible, strong, and free of pain. (Note: If you experience extreme pain during an exercise, skip that exercise.)
Standing with your arms straight out in front of you, your fingers spread, and your palms facing each other, slowly make fists with your hands by curling your fingers toward you and tucking your thumbs under your fingers. Inhale as you extend your fingers wide (very slowly), and exhale slowly as you clench them. Repeat this 5–10 times.
Standing or sitting upright, stretch one arm out in front of you with your wrist cocked back, palm facing forward, and fingers pointing up as if to make a “stop” gesture. Then, with your other hand and pull back very gently on the fingers stretching the wrist and arm. Hold the position for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat ten times.
Next, turn your hand downward, with the top of your hand facing out, your palm facing you, and your fingers pointing toward the ground. With your free hand, very gently press on the front of the hand, bringing it toward your body. Hold for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat ten times.
Place one hand palm down on the table with fingers moderately spread. Beginning with the thumb, lift each finger slowly off the table one at a time. Hold each finger up for a second or two before lowering it. Repeat with each finger on the left hand, then perform the exercise on the right hand.
Open your hand with your fingers spread apart. Touch your thumb to your pinky, then open your hand back up to the starting position. Continue touching the end of each finger with your thumb, opening the hand wide between each touch. Repeat on the opposite hand. Do this three times on each hand.
With your hands in the “thumbs up” position, rotate thumbs in a circular motion. After a few seconds, switch the direction the thumb is rotating (i.e. from clockwise to counterclockwise) to exercise your full range of motion.
1.Baltic Dental and Maxillofacial Journal, 2007 Volume 9, No. 1
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