No strain, no pain

20 April 2021
3 min read
Published:

Kate Scheer explains the cause and treatment of musculoskeletal pain.

Modern work and leisure patterns have seen a majority of the population now exhibiting musculoskeletal pain. Dentistry is unfortunately one of the most at risk professions, with some reports putting the number of dentists with musculoskeletal pains at over 90 per cent. Even among dentists who’ve been practising for under five years, rates of RSI exceed 80 per cent.

Of course, musculoskeletal strain doesn’t end with work. The rise of smartphones and tablets is encouraging more and more people to look down, or otherwise strain their neck. This can be particularly exaggerated when people use these devices in bed, gradually sliding down until their head is at more than a 45° angle. We naturally tend to orientate our heads with our line of sight over time – look down for long enough and the head will unconsciously follow. Our heads are heavy, on average around 4.5-5kg. When we tilt our head forward, rather than being balanced on top of the spinal column, the full weight of the head has to be borne by the neck and spine. The greater the tilt, the greater the relative strain. At just 15°, the relative mass of the head increases to 12.25kg, at 30° it rises to over 18kg, at 45° to 22.2kg, and at 60° it is the equivalent of 27.2kg (60 lbs).

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