Doin’ the surgeon’s shuffle

What is the surgeon’s shuffle?

You’re scrubbed-in, assisting a case in the OR that’s supposed to take three hours. But it takes six.  And while holding the surgical clamps is sooo engaging, you can’t help but notice you’re shifting your weight from side to side, and it’s not because you’re grooving to the beat of the anesthesiologist’s tunes—it’s because multiple parts of your body are terribly uncomfortable. You’re suffering from a clear case of the surgeon’s shuffle.


How does the surgeon’s shuffle affect my anatomy?

When standing for prolonged periods of time, the body is stressed & strained in several different ways, e.g. peripheral pooling of blood, knee & hip joint pain, back pain. Fidgeting (a.k.a. shuffling) is the body’s natural defense against these postural stressors, re-distributing the load placed on your bones and soft tissues, as well as temporarily relieving the work of your supporting muscles.


What can I do to counteract its effects?

Whether you intend to or not, you will inevitably fidget while in the OR… so use this knowledge to consciously fidget to your advantage with these simple tips:

  • Relieve tension on your ankles and feet: Raise one foot and perform gentle ankle circles in one direction, for 5 full rotations. Reverse the direction of the circle for another 5 rounds. Then change feet. Don’t lose your balance: keep your lifted foot just an inch or two off the ground, or better yet, try keeping the tips of your toes on the ground while the foot circles!
  • Unlock your knees: Perform micro knee bends to take your knees out of a locked extension or hyperextension, and get your anterior thigh muscles (e.g. the quadriceps femoris group) working. Make sure that the depth of the bend is small (only a couple inches), even on both sides, and that your patellae remain parallel to each other.
  • Release your tight lower back: Tilt your pelvis anteriorly and posteriorly, rocking it forward and back in small motions. Keep your knees bent and, for bonus points, initiate the movement from the abdominal wall muscles.
  • Counter too much hip flexion: To counter the activity of your hip flexors in the micro-bends, engage your gluteus maximus muscles to isometrically strengthen your hip extensors. While standing in a neutral, even stance, squeeze both of your butt-cheeks, hold for 5 seconds and release. Perform 5-10 in a row.

And most importantly: No matter how athletically inclined you are, try these simple moves at home before you show them off in the OR!! They should be second-nature, so that in the OR, you are still able to focus on the task at hand, and do not jeopardize anybody’s safety by bending too far, losing your balance, etc.


About the author

Matt McCulloch is the co-Founder and Director of Kinected, a New York-based Pilates studio specializing in anatomy education and injury rehabilitation. Apart from being a Master Pilates Instructor with decades of experience in training both clients and fellow instructors, Matt is also a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified trainer and a GYROKINESIS® and GYROTONIC® instructor. To learn more, please visit

Related posts

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *