Surgeons are routinely subject to mental and physical stress throughout the course of their work in the operating room. Consistent mental and physical fatigue can shorten a surgeon's career and affect patient safety and personal relationships. Simple stretching, with OR-Stretch, can be a practical, effective means to reduce pain, enhance performance and increase mental focus without extending operative time.

A recent study of attending surgeons from four medical centers volunteering to incorporate microbreaks with exercises into their surgical day reported improvement or no change in their mental focus and physical performance. Discomfort in the shoulders was significantly reduced, while distractions and flow impact were minimal. When surveyed, most of the surgeons wanted to incorporate the microbreaks with exercises into their OR routine. Intraoperative microbreaks, using OR-Stretch, with exercises is an easy way to mitigate work-related musculoskeletal fatigue, pain and injury.

How to stretch

When surgeons have a break during or between surgeries, stretches can aid recovery from the effects of long procedures. The routines can be performed using the instructional PDF and video links found on this page, or using the online app.

For safe and effective stretches:

  • Perform the activities slowly, avoiding rapid or forceful movements.
  • Keep breathing relaxed throughout all activities.
  • If any activity causes discomfort, stop performing the activity.

Intraoperative stretches

The Intraoperative OR-Stretch helps alleviate any fatigue and discomfort associated with the surgeon and surgical team's postures assumed when performing surgery. A video guide to these stretches is available in a web app that includes a timer to remind the surgical team to perform these stretches at certain time intervals.

Also available are two poster PDFs showing seated and standing exercises plus a video that offers tips to get more out of the intraoperative stretches. For example, pinch your shoulder blades together when pulling hands back to chest.

Between surgery stretches

The between-surgery OR-Stretch helps alleviate any fatigue and discomfort that may persist after performing surgery. These can be performed outside the operating room in between cases or after the final case of the day. These stretches have been designed to be unobtrusive and take less than five minutes to perform.

An OR-Stretch — Between Surgery Stretches (PDF) is available for printout. Or this OR-Stretch Between Surgery Stretches Video guides surgical staff through a short series of stretches to counteract the most frequent postures during surgery and can be done in the break room between surgical cases.

OR-Stretch App

To alleviate the physical discomfort surgery imposes, try out our convenient OR-Stretch web app. Following this protocol can help reduce the risk of developing musculoskeletal issues that can shorten surgeons' careers.

The OR-Stretch app guides surgeons through exercises on the spot and includes a reminder for stretching. To use OR-Stretch, simply log in to the web app using an email address; a password is not required. You will be asked to complete a brief demographic survey after logging in for the first time. You will be sent periodic emails to help Mayo Clinic improve OR-Stretch.

QR code for OR-Stretch app