Pre-shift Stretching

Would you workout at the gym without doing a proper warmup?  If you don’t want to injure yourself, I’d bet you answered “yes”.  Do you start your shift as a Paramedic without doing a proper warmup?  Based on my personal experiences I can say with certainty that the majority of us do not warmup or stretch prior to, or during our shift.  This is a mindset we need to change to avoid injury and prolong our careers.  There are some simple stretches you can do at the start, and throughout, your shift to keep your muscles warm and ready to go at any time.
All of the following stretches are easy to do in uniform and do not require any special equipment.  They can, and should, be done regularly throughout your shift.
photo 1-2
Chest Stretch:
Preparation
 • Place your hand against the door frame at shoulder height.
Movement
 • Brace your abdominals, retract the cervical spine. (Neutral Spine Position) 
• Slowly turn your body away from the door until you feel a stretch across the chest as well as the shoulder and bicep.
Tips• To increase the stretch raise the sternum and/or increase your rotation. 
• Avoid twisting the spine.

photo 1-3

 

Core Twists:

Preparation
• Stand upright with arms bent at 90 degrees.
Movement• Slowly rotate at the waist from side to side.
Tips • Keep your head in neutral position. As you rotate you can lift the opposite heel off the floor to get more of a stretch.

 

photo 1
Hip Flexor:
Preparation
• Place your foot on the edge of a table, countertop, desk or car hood.
• Stand tall with your balance leg slightly in front of you.
Movement
• Without leaning or arching your back, slowly bend the balance leg knee until a stretch is felt in front of the opposite leg.
Tips • The deeper you bend your balance leg, the greater the stretch.

photo 4
Upper Back/Shoulders:

Preparation 
• Grab onto the handles of the ambulance door with both hands.
Movement
 • Keeping legs slightly bent, bend at the hips and feel the stretch into your shoulders and upper back.  Hold for 45 – 60 seconds and repeat.
Tips • Be sure not to round your back when leaning forward.  During stretch you can straighten your legs to also get a stretch into the hamstrings.

photo 3

 

Calf Stretch:
Preparation
 • Stand on the back step of the ambulance.
Movement
 • Slide your feet off the edge so only the balls of your feet are on the step.  Let gravity pull your heels down off the step.  Hold for 45 – 60 seconds.
Tips• Be sure to hold the grab bars on the ambulance for balance.  Keep balls of your feet firmly on the step.

 

photo 2Hamstring:
Preparation
• Stand with one foot on a raised surface.
Movement• Brace your abdominals, slowly lean forward from the hip until your feel a strong stretch in the hamstring area. 
• Hold for 45 – 60 seconds. 
• Repeat on the opposite side.
Tips• Be sure not to round your back when leaning forward.• A chair, a step, or the ‘Truck’ can all be used.

As you can see these are not new stretches and all can easily be done in uniform (and I was also wearing a ballistic vest for all stretches) using your ambulance or a chair or wall.  Please consider including these stretches in your pre-shift preparation!