Study Finds Stretching Helps Surgeons Work More Safely

Adrian Park, MD, is an international expert on ergonomics in the surgical suite.

Wouldn’t you want your surgeon to have greater stamina and focus and less pain? Research by Adrian Park, MD, chair of AAMC’s Department of Surgery, may prevent surgeons from suffering work-related pain, potentially making surgery safer for patients.

As the surgeon’s tools and incisions become smaller, surgeries are easier on the patient but oftentimes harder on the doctor. Minimally invasive surgeries require surgeons to remain still for long periods of time. This has led surgeons to experience more frequent pain in the neck, shoulder and back areas during and after performing an operation.

In Dr. Park’s study, surgeons performed a 90-second series of targeted exercises every 20–40 minutes during surgery. Surgeons who took the breaks reported less discomfort and an improvement in physical performance and mental focus. Most of the surgeons who took part in the study said they wanted to incorporate targeted stretching micro breaks into their operating rooms in the future.

“It seems obvious that stretching would help relieve any discomfort while performing surgery. But the act of pausing during surgery is not a widely accepted practice — we are trained to work until we finish the job,” says Dr. Park.

Dr. Park, an expert in the ergonomics of the surgical suite, says a cultural shift is needed in the way surgeons are trained. Otherwise, he warns, we could face an epidemic of occupational injuries to surgeons.

PARK_adrian_headshot_fmtAdrian Park, MD, is chair of AAMC’s Department of Surgery.

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