Best Stretching Exercises for Nurses

For any of us that work in a hospital or clinical environment, one of the main goals of every shift is to stay relaxed and loose but also energized.  One of the best ways to do that is to incorporate stretching into your daily work routine.  The benefits of stretching are indisputable.  At the same time, you are improving your overall flexibility, reducing the risk of muscle pulls, increasing blood flow and increasing your energy.  Best of all, many common stretches can be done during your normal routine without needing to set aside extra time.  Let’s look at 10 stretches that you can do during your shift and on your break time.

Stretches During Your Normal Duties

When you are standing to do charting or waiting for someone or for a test to be completed, try these simple stretches to help you stay loose and pass the time.

Toe Raises – Standing with your feet closer than shoulder-width apart, slowly raise up on your toes while squeezing your glutes together.  Maintain for a count of three and lower your heels back down to the floor.  Repeat five to ten times for a nice deep stretch.

Heel Raises – This is a great stretch to do when you are standing at the nurse’s station. You can balance yourself by placing one hand on the counter.  To stretch, stand with your feet six inches apart, slowly lift your right heel to your buttocks and slowly lower it back down.  Repeat this for 10 repetitions, then do the same with your left leg.

Squats – The next time you run down to the supply room, or you are prepping a patient’s room, steal a few seconds and get some squats in.  Keep your back straight and slowly lower yourself as you would when sitting down in a chair.  Keep your chest over your knees and squat, maintaining that position for at least three seconds.  Straighten up and repeat to complete at least three repetitions.  When doing this properly, you will feel it in your thighs and glutes.

Wall Sits (Advanced) – Once you have built up some strength doing regular squats, you can multiply the effort by using the wall.  With your back straight against a wall or locked door and your feet 12 to 15 inches from the wall, slowly slide down until you are in a sitting position.  Hold this position for as many counts as you can, then slide back up to a standing position.  Repeat as you can.

Shoulder / Back Stretch – Another beneficial stretch to do while standing and waiting is a reverse bend.  Standing straight, place your palms on your lower back with your elbows in and slowly arch your back, pressing your shoulder blades together.  Hold this position for at least five seconds.  You want to feel the stretch in your lower back, your shoulders and chest.

Break Time Stretches

The following stretches are great for the break room or whenever you have a few extra minutes to re-energize.

Counter Push-ups – If you are in the break room waiting for the microwave to heat up your lunch, take a minute and do some push-ups at the countertop (Not directly in front of the microwave!). Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of the counter.  Take a few steps back to a comfortable distance.  Keep your back straight and slowly lower yourself towards the counter without allowing your chest to touch it.  Push yourself back up and repeat.  Set a goal of working up to 15 repetitions.

Leg Lifts – Another perfect break room stretch is the leg lift.  Sit in a chair with your back straight and slowly lift one leg out straight.  Hold your leg in that position for at least 15 seconds before lowering it back to the floor.  Do five repetitions with each leg. For the last five seconds of each repetition, try rotating your foot around to stretch out your ankle!

Hula-Hoop Stretch – Everyone loved trying to master the hula-hoop as a child.  Who says we can’t amuse the kid in us during a break?  Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, place your hands on your hips and swivel them around, just like you did when trying to spin the hula-hoop all of those years ago.  Try and do at least five rotations in each direction.  This stretch activates your hip and back muscles to ward off lower back pain.

Neck Stretches – An important stretch, and one that should be done at least once per hour is the neck stretch.  Maintaining loose neck muscles will help you keep your shoulders loose and help prevent tension headaches. Stand up straight, place your right hand behind your lower back (palm facing out), and use your left hand to gently pull your head down toward your shoulder.  Only pull until you feel the stretch, then hold for 20 seconds.  Repeat on the opposite side.

Shoulder Rolls – Standing up straight with your arms at your side, lift and rotate your shoulders forward for five to ten revolutions.  Repeat the same movement in reverse for five to ten revolutions.  This is another simple way to keep your neck, shoulders, and upper back nice and loose.

Do you make a point of stretching when you can at work?  What are your favorite simple stretches to do during a long shift at the hospital?  Share your routine with your fellow nurses in the comment section below.  Or stop by our Facebook page and tell us how you stay loose at work!