Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Happy Wednesday to you.

I saw a really good movie this weekend called The Messenger with Woody Harrelson. It is about a soldier that was injured in the Middle East war with three months still to go in his stint in the Army. He was put with seasoned veteran (Woody) and their job was to let the next of kin know that their loved one had been killed in the war. I know, doesn't sound fun. This movie was very heavy but I thought was really, really good.

Today's topic is our bodies. I remember getting out of school in my physical prime and kind of laughing at the courses I saw about posture. I kept hearing about these special chairs that would save your body. “Yeah right! I am not going to spend $2000 on a chair!"

I was 26 and thought I was indestructible. I am 43 now and I am feeling pretty destructible. About three months ago, I was getting a stiff neck. I had no problem looking to my left but my neck would hurt if I looked to the right. I had trouble driving when I needed to look over before I changed lanes. No big deal. I just rubbed my neck and I thought it would go away.

After a month, it was still there. I realized that, although I think I have good posture while I work (the loupes I wear keep me from bending in to see), I can only see if I am about 22 inches from the subject. When I want to see the lingual of #11, I just bend over and see it straight on. When I want to see something like the mesial of #5, as I create the anatomy, I bend way over just to look at it. I can use the mirror, but sometimes looking at it straight on is nice. I started to realize this is probably part of the problem. Also, I am a left side of the bed kind of guy when I sleep. I would sleep on my belly with my head turned left. All this being said, my head didn't turn right very well.

Another month went by and I still had a stiff neck. Being the dude that I am, I was still not that concerned. I had trouble moving my head to the right. I was constantly be rubbing my neck where the trapezius muscle attaches to the base of the skull, stretching down about 4 inches. Yeah, right there.

So one day, I asked my wife if she wouldn't mind switching to the left side of the bed. She was not really happy about it, but she understood. We did this for about a month, but things were not much better. Another month gone by and finally this thing was on my radar.

Then I started getting pain. But it was in a different place. It was in the center of my neck, exactly where the back of my skull meets my neck. If I push on it, it hurts. Radar is definitely picking this up.

The heightened awareness started to become neurosis. I started thinking about my disability. This is it, Of all the things that I do to possibly injure myself... Chainsaws, ice skating (this is dangerous because we live in Florida and I don't know how to ice skate), snowboarding, driving, and flying, are just some of the stupid things I do that I could result in injury. But no. It is looking at the lingual of #11 that is going to be the end of me.

After pain radar went off, I started to notice other things. My left shoulder has limited mobility that I pretty much ignore. I have had feet problems for a long time that I just ignore also (I think I have plantar fasciitis), but limping around the house most of the time is hard to ignore.

Okay, so I have pain, in my neck. I have pain in my shoulder and in my feet. What the heck am I supposed to do about it now? I can't stop practicing dentistry. I can't stop holding the mirror. I just don't know.

But it was even more than that. I started to think about what it would mean if this were serious. What if I have some degenerative issue in my neck? What if my neurosurgeon tells me that I have to stop practicing dentistry? What if I need surgery and recovery would mean I have to be on bed rest (right side of the bed, of course) for 4 months? What if? What if? What if? I was going crazy.

I have maxed out my disability insurance. I think I would be entitled to something like $90,000 a year (after taxes) if I got hurt. That means we would have to have a significant lifestyle change. We would have to move. We would have to decide to do homeschool or not (heck, I wouldn't be working). But I couldn't just not do anything. What the heck would I do?

Could I teach? Would I have to move to Gainesville or Ft. Lauderdale? Could I consult? It is strange that I am thinking like this? It is very upsetting to me to think I wouldn't be able to do dentistry anymore. I have heard that some disability policies don't allow you to work. Do I have that one? I don't know. I haven't looked at the policy in 15 years.

Man, all this because I have a stiff neck. My mind goes crazy sometimes. But I am writing this blog to make us all think. Are you 26 and think you are never going to get hurt? Are you 40 and feel the same way? Things will change, my sisters and brothers. Trust me. You have to get disability insurance, but you have to take care of yourself. You have to sit better. You have to improve your posture.

(this is one of my buddies when he was putting implants on one of my patients. This is not good posture.)

Has your body started to give out on you? Do you have aches and pains? Have you had to use your insurance because of an injury? I would like to know.

Have a great Wednesday.


P.S. My neck has improved because I have made a custom pillow for my head. Also, as it turns out, I think my running might be doing it. Did I tell you that I am signed up to do the New York Marathon in November? I have been ramping up the training. I am doing about 30-40 miles a week. I noticed that my neck hurts the day after I run. I might have to take up rowing or something after this marathon.


Anonymous said...

John, I know you are a "dude" but you really should look into getting bodywork done (read "neuromuscular massage" or if that is too girly, physical therapy). We emphasize prevention in dentistry but it applies to aging muscles and connective tissue as well. A consistent schedule of bodywork or sports therapy, especially with the marathon training you do, will allow you to do what you love and lose some of the angst about whether or not this is serious. Of course, an radiographic exam would rule out major spine and/or disc issues, but the therapy can prevent much damage from chronic occupational issues. I speak from 20 years of personal experience with musculoskeletal issues....Cynthia Becker DDS MAGD (55th birthday coming up way too soon.....)

Anonymous said...

Take up biking. It's the bombdiggity. Get some padded britches and you're all set for your low impact sport. Central Florida is a biker's heaven!!!

gatordmd said...

The biking is an option but I don't think I would look good in the spandex biking shorts.

Come to think of it, maybe I would.


Lilya Horowitz said...

Yoga is amazing. Makes you feel great and is a great counter exercise when you are doing something hardcore like marathon training.



PLEASE NOTE: When commenting on this blog, you are affirming that any and all statements, and parts thereof, that you post on “The Daily Grind” (the blog) are your own.

The statements expressed on this blog to include the bloggers postings do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), nor do they imply endorsement by the AGD.