Intraoperative Stretching Micro Breaks Enhance Surgeon Performance

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


February 24, 2017

Is there a simple way to reduce musculoskeletal pain and loss of focus that frequently develops during operative procedures? The authors of a recent study in the Annals of Surgery[1] examined the effects of "micro breaks," whereby members of the operative team (N = 66) spent a couple of minutes performing stretching procedures at intervals of approximately 20-40 minutes. With each participant acting as his/her control, micro breaks reduced position-related stress for nearly all body regions, with the most significant pain reduction scores being observed for the shoulders (P = .001) and the neck (P = .01). Surgeons were enthusiastic about the benefit, and 87% of them indicated that they would incorporate micro breaks into their operative routine. More than half of the surgeons reported improvements in their physical performance, and 38% reported improvements in their mental focus.


Occupational discomfort and disability are problems for many professionals, leading to discomfort and career dissatisfaction. It is an especially common problem for surgeons during prolonged procedures performed in a cramped, uncomfortable position. Targeted stretching exercises as detailed in this report significantly reduced musculoskeletal strain, while adding only a few extra minutes to overall operative time. As might be expected, intraoperative stretching exercises had the greatest impact on reducing pain localized to the neck, shoulders, and back and were the least beneficial for pain in the lower extremities. This report only covers short-term benefits, but it seems reasonable that long-term effects of incorporating exercises into the operative routine will also be beneficial.

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