Strain Your Pasta, Not Your Back
Tips to Avoid Back and Neck Pain Due to Everyday Kitchen Activities
The kitchen is often described as “hardest-working room in the house,” and it is where one’s back can work the hardest as well. According to Dr. William Madosky of Madosky Chiropractic and Acupuncture Center in St. Louis, poorly designed kitchen and the way we work and move within them – standing, sitting and bending – can lead to back and neck pain.
Whether one prepares food like a gourmet chef or a short-order cook, a lot of time is spent in the kitchen today – putting away groceries, creating meals, cleaning up and taking out the trash, not to mention socializing. “Most people think it’s that one wrong move that threw out their back, when it is really an accumulation of poor body mechanics in everyday activities,” advises Madosky. “All that time we are spending in the kitchen can take it’s toll on the spine.”
The problem with older kitchens is that they were not only designed simply for cooking, storing and cleaning, but also for people who were shorter than an average person is today. Bending forward over a sink or counter top that is too low can place undue stress on the neck and back. Fortunately today’s kitchen designs call for higher counter tops (a good counter top height is ____ inches).
To decrease the risk of back and neck pain brought about by everyday kitchen duties, Dr. Madosky suggests the following tactics:
- Adjust positioning. If the counter tops are too tall, stand on a small stool with slip-resistant feet. If the counter tops are too short, sit on a stool while preparing food.
Always stand squarely in front of the workspace when preparing food. Avoid bending, twisting and lifting movements that put the back and neck at risk of injury.
When working at the kitchen sink, open the cabinet door beneath the sink and rest one foot on the floor of the cabinet. This will decrease the pressure on the lower back. If the sink does not have a cabinet under it, place a small foot stool under the sink. Remember to alternate feet. Also, keep knees slightly bent to help keep the back straight and minimize forward bending.
Purchase a refrigerator that has the refrigerator portion on the top and the freezer on the bottom. The temperature regulated compartments will require less bending to reach. Place heavier items on the shelves at chest level. Also look for a refrigerator that has wheels and will be easy to move when cleaning.Kitchen cabinets with pull-out shelves on rollers allow easy access to finding and storing food, dishes and household goods. Group frequently used oven supplies in one area within easy reach. Store commonly used foods on the shelves at chest level and infrequently used foods on the shelves below.
Bend the knees and keep the back straight while reaching down for food on shelves lower than chest-level. Use a small step stool with slip-resistant feet when reaching for food on higher shelves. Also, use slip-resistant padded mats at the kitchen sink; they help prevent slipping and injuring the back, as well as reducing stress on the back while standing still.
For people with chronic back pain, Dr. Madosky suggests designing the kitchen as though wheelchair access was needed. In such kitchens, cabinet and stove heights are built lower, and access to cabinets is easier. This design is useful to people who have difficulty standing for long periods of time.
If you have any comments or questions about the information in this article or ideas for future articles please contact Dr. Madosky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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