For our first blog we introduced the reality that there is an epidemic amount of sonographer pain and injury. Almost 90% of sonographers work and live daily with that pain and injury as a result of doing our jobs. That is an epidemic and sinful statistic. As fellow sonographers, we should be incensed that more is not being done to quell the enormous pain and injury that we suffer from.
Coach Rozy and I have the solution. In our first blog with the AIUM, we detailed and gave examples of lower body stretches and exercises that sonographers should do. The folks at the AIUM relayed that our post was very popular among sonographers. Some of the feedback that we received was that many that read our blog thought it was silly that we would suggest doing lower body work for sonographers that predominately suffer from upper body issues (neck, back, shoulders, etc…).
In our 2nd blog we explained why lower body stretches and exercises are also crucial to good sonographer health and pain-free imaging. My favorite story that Coach Rozy tells is about his time in the National Football League. A prominent quarterback in the league at the time was having pain in his shoulders, and main throwing arm. He couldn’t follow through properly on his pass mechanics due to the pain in his throwing shoulder. Not good, if you are a quarterback in the NFL and you can’t pass properly.
Rozy immediately zoned in and started working the shoulder, with little positive result. A few days later Rozy noticed that this quarterback was walking into the locker room with a limp. He hit him up and was told that he had taken a hard hit on his hip and that it had caused him hip pain. Immediately Rozy started working on the quarterback’s hip. A few days later, the hip was better. At this time the shoulder pain also stopped, and life was good. The problem wasn’t the shoulder. The problem was the hip. The hip injury translated into the shoulder. Fix the hip, fix the shoulder. That’s why when you look at sonographer pain and injury, you must look at the body as a whole, not just the area of pain and injury.
For our 3rd blog, we want to share why it is absolutely crucial that your work as a sonographer must be done at the very highest level on each and every patient that you work on. An article entitled, “Making a Difference as a Sonographer, 100% Every Person, Every Time” details my own personal battle with my wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer. As you will read, a breast ultrasound is the only test that caught my wife’s cancer. The cancer was caught early, which made her course miraculous, given such a diagnosis. Amazing things happened in Yankton, SD, the day that my wife had her ultrasound study that caught ‘something’. Enough ‘something’ that a biopsy was done, the cancer was found early, and the course for my wife was incredible. As sonographers it is CRUCIAL that we be on our ‘A’ game for every person that we work on.
The following are a few simple, quick, easy stretches that can be easily done at work or home. Working the body as a whole is important.
Lying thoracic spine rotation
Start by lying on the ground on your side (either side). With your arms extended straight out at chest level pull your knees pulled up to your chest. The hips and knees should both be at 90 degrees. Work to have your ankles at 90°. You can use a mat, and for added comfort and support use a pillow.
To begin, keep the knees together (place a rolled-up towel or small ball between the knees if you need more support), move your top arm over your body and toward the floor on the opposite side. The objective is to get the arm and s
houlder blade touching the ground, not just the hand.
All images courtesy of Doug Wuebben.
The goal is to do 2 sets of 8 reps on each side. Tip: You want the movement to come through the thoracic spine — not just the shoulder area.
Kneeling thoracic spine rotation
After completing the lying thoracic spine rotation, progress to the kneeling thoracic spine rotation exercise. This is a more progressive move and requires enhanced control over your posture, movement, and stability.
Begin in a 6-point (some say 4-point) position, on your hands and knees. Take one hand and put it on the base of the skull behind your head. It’s important to keep weight evenly distributed between the legs and your other arm. Keep the bent arm locked in position. The elbow stays pointed toward the ground. Rotate your torso with motion going through the spine, ending so that the bent elbow is pointed up. The movement should come through the back/spine — and not just the shoulder! Take the movement through as large a range of motion as possible. The benefit comes from movement from the thoracic spine. Don’t use your shoulders or hips.
Do 2 sets of 8 reps on each side.
Most people consider proper lunge technique to include pushing the hips forward to stretch what they feel are the hip flexors and the psoas. The iliacus crossing the hip is what is stretched in the traditional lunge, but the psoas also crosses the hip and all lumbar joints.
The best way to stretch the psoas occurs when it is isolated with a lunge that includes lateral bending of the spine and twisting and extension motions. This is a great warm-up stretch before running or doing a lower body routine. Stretch and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat several times, both directions.
Another simple yet effective routine is what we call the farmer’s walk exercise. Pick one or two dumbbells and hold them by your sides. Then walk around your training area. Start by walking 25 yards or you can also time yourself, say for 30 seconds, to begin with.
If you are a beginner, perform the farmer’s walk by carrying any object that has some weight to it. Increase the weight as you progress. The farmer’s walk is a simple yet effective leg-strengthening exercise that works your calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings. The core muscles that help support your spine also benefit. It also creates intra-abdominal pressure to prevent your spine from collapsing.
To vary this routine, hold the weights overhead, use only one weight, or hold one weight overhead and one at your side.
What stretches do you do? How do you improve your posture? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.
Doug Wuebben BA, AS, RDCS (Adult and Peds), FASE, is a registered echocardiographer and also a consultant, international presenter, and author of e-books in the areas of ergonomics, exercise and pain, and injury correction for sonographers. He has also been published on the topics of telemedicine and achieving lab accreditation.
Mark Roozen, M.Ed, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT, FNSCA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a certified personal trainer, and a fellow of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
Wuebben and Roozen are co-founders of Live Pain Free — The Right Moves. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.