Unfortunately, we can’t help you tolerate your mother-in-law’s endless “opinions” about your recipe choices and cooking techniques, but we have some tips that will help ease the back or knee pain that so many of us experience after cooking for a length of time.
Many of us tend to stand with one, or several of the following: knees locked back or hyperextended, pelvis tipped forward, exaggerated arch in the low back, weight on our toes versus our heels. This posture may not seemingly create much, if any, pain when only standing for short durations, but can really start to become problematic when we stay in this posture for too long or are lifting heavy pots and pans with this faulty alignment. Here are some quick ways to keep that pain at bay for as long as possible:
Take breaks. So many of us become focused on getting the task done as fast as possible, we “tune out” our bodies. Our bodies are not meant to stand for more than 30 minutes at a time and when we aren’t listening to its subtle cues, our pain levels can easily escalate before we realize there’s a problem. Try setting an egg timer for every 20-30 minutes. When the timer goes off, sit down, walk around, just do something other than standing in place. Feel like you can’t stop mid-recipe? Set up a card table with a chair and sit when you’re prepping ingredients.
Wear comfortable shoes. You’re likely going to change into some nicer attire, or freshen up to get the onion smell off of you, before your guests come over. Therefore, you may as well wear the most appropriate things while cooking. Although flats and minimalist running shoes may feel comfortable on your feet, they allow your heel bones to rotate and arches to fall. When your feet aren’t able to support the weight of your body appropriately, you will find “easy,” or compensatory, ways to try to give your body that support. We usually “hang on our ligaments” or “lock our bodies out” to do this, i.e. locking our knees or arching our backs.
Don’t lean. When our postural muscles that help hold us upright get tired, we’ll find other ways to hold ourselves up. It’s very common to arch our backs, rotate our pelvis forward, and lean our hips against the countertop or kitchen sink. This puts a majority of our body weight directly onto our lumbar spines (low back) and forces us to lock our knees out.
Avoid twisting. Not everyone has a gourmet kitchen with ample room. Often, we’re cooking in a small space because of the kitchen size and/or the family standing over our shoulders trying to sneak a taste before dinner time. With that, we tend to twist our upper bodies and back as we reach to another spoon, pot, etc. Instead, move your feet. Our feet should always be below our hips, hip width apart, with our toes forward. So as you reach over to get that colander, take some steps to get there instead of just twisting your body or overreaching.
Make someone else do the dishes. For goodness sakes, if you just did enough cooking to need to read this article, you deserve a break!