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Cooking with back pain

By Shanilla May 08 2012 | 11.29 AM

There are certain things that we do every day that can make our back pain worse; one of those things is cooking. Chefs are notorious for experiencing back pain, however whether you are a professional chef or enjoy cooking and hosting dinner parties for friends and family you may find working in the kitchen aggravates your back or neck pain.

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Working in the kitchen requires standing for prolonged periods of time which exerts pressure on the spine and pelvis. Working in the kitchen also requires bending and lifting and my personal dislike; twisting, which increases the pressure in the spinal discs and is the main cause for disc injury.

Here are some tips to alleviate some of the pressure on your back and neck:

  • Raise your cutting board level so that you are not bending for prolonged periods and straining the ligaments and discs in you lower back.
  • Invest in some lightweight pots and trays to reduce heavy lifting.
  • Use good lifting techniques, bend your knees as well as your back and don't over reach.
  • If you do suffer with a lower back problem such as a disc injury, having a foot stool that you can raise one foot on can help to flex the hip and open out the little holes in the lumbar spine where the spinal nerves emerge from. This reduces the compression on the nerves resulting in less discomfort.
  • You might be standing for a while, so wear comfortable shoes with a rubber sole for good grip and a heel that is about half an inch high to provide good arch support.
  • Pay attention to your posture, stand with a wide stance, align your head above your shoulders, keep your chin tucked in and keep your shoulders back and down.

Reduce some of the effects of a sedentary lifestyle by getting outdoors and walking around a farmers' market to buy some great nutritious ingredients. If you suffer with back pain try to choose foods that can help to reduce chronic inflammation. Salmon for example can have anti-inflammatory qualities because it is high in omega 3 fatty acids are very good at breaking down the products of inflammation hence reducing pain.

If you are cooking for a number of people, ask for help instead of attempting to cook the entire meal yourself. It will be fun to get other people involved and share recipes. Sharing the workload means you won't be doing all the standing, bending, twisting and lifting by yourself and you can take breaks.

If you are throwing a dinner party, plan your menu in advance and consider preparing a meal that can be worked on over a few days. This will allow you to pace yourself to minimise the strain on your back. An added advantage of this is that most dishes taste better when they are started early, and you can add the finishing touches at the last minute!

On-going back pain should be assessed by a registered osteopath, who will take a detailed history, perform an examination, and provide a diagnosis of the problem with an appropriate treatment and exercise regime.


Shanilla Isabel Diaz is a registered osteopath at

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