According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013, injuries affecting muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons accounted for 33% of all work-related injuries. While a double on the floor or thirteen hours on the line may never get easier, there are some simple stretches that you can do to get your body ready for the day and help prevent injuries at work.
Carrying heavy plates, shaking cocktails, and hours of chopping can put a lot of stress on the muscles and tendons in your hands and wrists. The Harvard Medical School suggests easy-to-do wrist, thumb, and finger exercises to help you protect your hands, including this one:
The Hand and Finger Tendon Glide
Start with your fingers extended straight and holding each position for 5–10 seconds;10 repetitions of each exercise per hand.
- Make a hook fist; return to a straight hand.
- Make a full fist, curling your fingers in; return to a straight hand.
- Make a straight fist (a fist with fingers extended down toward your wrist - as in straight); return to a straight hand.
Leaning over a grill, carrying a full stockpot, or holding pounds of plates will put a lot of strain on your back. The cat-cow stretch is great way to relieve the soreness from your previous shift and get you ready for your next one. This movement gently stretches the muscles of the lower back, easing lower back strain.
- Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.
- Contract your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button in toward your spine.
- Slowly round your back, pushing it up toward the ceiling (like an angry cat); tilt your chin towards your chest and curl your pelvis under. Hold for 5-10 seconds to feel a gentle stretch in your back, then return to the starting position.
- Lift your chin, allow your belly to drop so that your pelvis tilts forward, arching your spine (like a mooing cow). Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
- Alternate between the cat and cow positions, repeat the sequence about 5-10 times.
The average server can walk around 6 to 8 miles a shift and when not properly prepared that can result in a muscle strain. Stretching out your legs before a long shift can help you avoid stiff muscles and an injury. The hamstring, quad, and Samson stretches are all great ways to Improve overall leg mobility and can help you avoid soreness in your back as well.
Half-Kneel Hip and Quad Stretch
Complete all steps, then switch sides and repeat. Move in and out of this stretch for 10-15 reps or more, depending on your level of tightness.
- Kneel on your right knee (put down a towel or mat for cushion, if needed) with your left foot planted flat on the ground in front of you, making a 90-degree angle so that your knee is stacked directly above your ankle, getting both legs close to a 90-degree angle.
- Lean forward toward your left leg, lengthening the hip flexors and quads of the back leg downward.
- Reach back and grab your right foot/ankle with your right hand and pull it in toward your butt (you can loop a towel, tie or belt aroud your ankle to grasp if you aren't able to reach), use your left hand to balance, grounding it on the floor or a nearby wall/chair.
- Shift forward and backward (i.e., slight rocking motion), pressing your right hip forward for a deeper stretch in your quad. Then relax back out of it and repeat.
Standing Quad Stretch
- Stand with your feet together.
- Bend your left knee and use your left hand to pull your left foot toward your butt. Keep your knees together. For balance, put your right hand on a wall or chair.
- Squeeze your glutes to increase the stretch in the front of your legs.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- Repeat on the other leg.
Your foot contains 26 bones and 33 joints along with many ligaments, tendons, and muscles. After 10,000 plus steps during your brunch shift, your dogs will be barking. Stretching and massaging your calves and toes will help get those pups ready for the day.
- Stand with your toes on a step, your heels off the edge.
- With the balls of your feet on the step, slowly lower your heels down so that they dip lower than the step, hold for 10 to 15 seconds
- Lift your heels to starting position.
- Repeat 5-10 times; if the movement is too much for both feet at once, do one foot at a time.
- Sit in a chair and remove your shoes and socks.
- Place a tennis ball on the floor and press down on it lightly with the bottom of your foot.
- Roll it around for a few minutes on each foot.
After your shift is over check out these 7 Yoga stretches to help you unwind and relieve any soreness that the last 10 hours may have caused. If you have constant or severe pain, please see a doctor.
Disclaimer: Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.