Taking Care of Yourself in the Kitchen

Are you reluctant to cook anymore because of back pain, foot pain, or neck pain? It is difficult to get in the kitchen to make healthy meals or wash dishes when you are in pain after a short amount of time. We have put together a few ways to help manage or even decrease your pain to get you back in the kitchen!

Low Back Pain
Back pain in the kitchen is very common due to our position and the hard floors we stand on. When standing at the counter to cut up food or standing at the stove, our backs are not always straight. If you are tall, you are in a slight forward bend to reach down and if you are short, you may have to reach up more. Because of this, our backs can take a lot of stress.
In order to help manage pain, the first thing you want to do while standing is to “engage your core”. To do this, you are attempting to pull your navel in toward you spine and tighten your deep abdominal muscles. It should feel as if you are on the verge of laughing or coughing, or bracing yourself as if you were going to get socked in the stomach. Engaging the core helps to stabilize and protect the low back and also helps you to stand up taller so you are not leaning over as much.
Another option is trying to prep ahead of time. If you are able, cut vegetables in the morning, or prepare the meat early so you are not on your feet for extended periods. You may also find ways to prep vegetables or meat while sitting.
Prior to cooking and standing you may want to stretch your hamstrings and quads. These muscles can tight with standing in one spot to help support the lumbar spine. With the core engaged while cooking and the hamstrings and quads stretched, you are helping to manage the low back pain.

Neck Pain
Neck pain can be common in the kitchen as well due to looking down at the counter to cut, stirring a pot, or lifting heavy pots can even put stress on the cervical spine. To help manage some of the symptoms, here are a few things to try.
Check you posture often while cooking. It may be difficult to stand up tall the whole time because you have to look down, however if you keep your shoulder blades back instead of rounding them forward, it will help keep your neck in a more neutral position while looking down. It is always good to take a break in between activities and when going from cutting to sautéing then make sure your posture is good during the transition.
As mentioned with low back pain, attempt to prep what you can ahead of time so you don’t have to look down as long while cutting then cooking immediately after.
If you feel the neck gets tight and stiff, stretching your upper traps (first picture), levator (second picture) and scalenes (third picture) will help to decrease some of the tightness and relieve pain.

Foot Pain
Another common issue with standing in the kitchen is foot pain, usually plantar fasciitis, though can also be tendonitis, post-surgical, or arthritis.
To help with manage foot pain, make sure you wear supportive shoes while standing for long periods. Wearing just any shoes, sandals, or slippers will not work, rather you need to make sure they are supportive tennis shoes.
Getting an anti-fatigue mat will also help to protect your feet in standing, and dually will help with low back pain as well! Place a few of these around the kitchen where you may be standing the most to help soften the floor and protect the feet.
Lastly, you can stretch the calf and the bottom of the foot to increase the flexibility. Also using a frozen water bottle to roll on the bottom of the foot can help. Doing this before helps to keep the pain down during and doing it again after will help with any pain from standing long periods.

Along with all of these tidbits, don’t be afraid to take an anti-inflammatory or use ice or heat (whichever is most comfortable and helpful for you) in order to manage the symptoms.
Now that we have given you ways to manage the most common pain areas in the kitchen, don’t be afraid to get in there and make those healthy meals!

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