According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching helps improve flexibility and range of motion in the joints. Improved flexibility decreases the risk of injuries and enables muscles to work more effectively. Stretching also increases blood flow to muscle, flushing out oxygen-depleted cells and increasing energy levels. Jeff Miller, a certified personal trainer and owner of Function Fitness, recommends the four best stretches for nurses to stay relaxed and loose during a shift.
1. Neck stretch
Stand up straight with your head level. Place one hand behind your back as if standing “at ease,” only with the back of your hand on your lower back. Put the other hand on top of your head, and gently pull your head to the side until you feel a stretch. You should feel the stretch in your neck, shoulder, and a little bit in your core. Hold for 20 seconds, then do the other side. Do this once an hour to help keep your neck muscles loose and balanced.
2. Chest and shoulder stretch
Stand up straight with good posture. Put your hands out to your side, and rotate your hands so your thumb is pointing backward until they’re pointing at the wall behind you. Arch your back, pressing your shoulder blades together, and hold for five seconds. If you do this once an hour, it will help prevent back, shoulder, and neck pain caused by constantly leaning over your patients and looking down at their charts.
Put your hands on your hips and slowly swivel them around like a hula-hooper. Do this five times per side every hour. It will help keep your hip and back muscles stable and balanced, preventing low-back pain.
4. Standing row with tubing
Attach some exercise tubing (just medical tubing with some grips on it) to a coat hook or something else relatively close to eye level on the wall. Holding your hands thumb-side up and your arms straight out in front of you, pull your elbows straight back toward the wall behind you. Do three sets of three reps 12-15 times, at least three times per week.
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