AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 1, 2020


Exercise for the Surgeon 8: Counteracting the Effect Surgery Takes on the Surgeon

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As the exercises become more advanced, it is important to maintain good form. Form fatigue is a common source of injury and can decrease the effectiveness of the exercises. It is better to do fewer repetitions with correct form, than more with incorrect form. If you experience pain during any of these exercises, it is best to stop instead of trying to push past the pain.


1. Use an incline adjustable bench set at an angle.

2. Face the bench and lower yourself onto the bench with your clavicle aligned with the top edge of the bench and your torso flush to the bench (Figure 1,2,3).

3. There are three separate lifts that are performed from this position: Shoulder flexion, shoulder retractions and spinal extension paired with scapular depression.

Shoulder Flexion

This exercise is performed by maintaining contact with the bench and raising both arms straight through a full flexion at the shoulder (Figure 4,5). Raise the arm as high as you can without compromising the spinal position or the full extension at the elbow. 

Shoulder Retraction

For this exercise, maintain contact with the bench and raise both arms through a full horizontal abduction (Figure 6,7,8,9). Pull the shoulder blades all the way around into retraction and allow them to relax into a protraction as the arms are returned for the next repetition.

Spinal Extension Paired with Scapular Depression

This exercise is performed with the ribs elevated off the bench through the extension of the spine with hands clasped together behind the back (Figure 10,11,12,13). As you extend and elevate the rib cage, make sure to maintain a neutral cervical spine. Press your hands far down the back of your hips to encourage the depression of the scapula as the lift is performed.

Figure 4 Rotator Cuff Stretch

This exercise is a great compliment to the bench-supported raises.

1. Holding a pipe or bar that is at least double the length of the forearm at one end straight out in front with the tag end of the bar sticking up.

2. Bend at the elbow and drop the tag end of the bar on the outside of the same side shoulder, so it is now sticking down (Figure 14,15,16).

3. Reach across the body with the other arm and grasp the tag end of the bar (Figure 17,18).

4. Slowly pull the tag end of the bar back across the body levering the bar on the shoulder, stretching the rotator cuff musculature (Figure 19,20).

This stretch puts a sizable amount of leverage against the rotator cuff and is easy to over stretch the musculature. Be careful to not move the bar too fast or too far in the stretch.


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