Kitchen Strategies to Help Reduce Back Pain

Cooking from scratch is often healthier, cheaper and tastier than heating up a prepared meal, eating out, or ordering in.  But all the prep work and cleanup in our kitchen can be a pain – and for people with back issues, long hours standing, lifting, twisting and reaching can make home cooking something to avoid.  A new book, written by Dr. Griffin Baum, a spinal surgeon at Northwell Health in New York City, hopes to give people with back pain the tools and strategies to create an environment that help them get back into the kitchen – with less pain.

According to a recent NPR Health News report, by using a rolling cart to move heavy pots or small appliances and sitting to chop vegetables, some of the strain on the back in the kitchen can be minimized.  The Healthy Back Kitchen also recommends using kitchen shears to trim vegetables like beans or broccoli and taking frequent breaks from standing.  Prepping vegetables ahead, choosing lighter-weight cookware, and keeping tools within arm’s reach can also help reduce strain from standing, bending or torquing the back.  

A sturdy kitchen stool not only offers a seat for resting but can also provide a transitional surface to move food from the oven to the counter or table.  And investing in a long set of tongs can also help cooks with back problems avoid bending over and causing pain.  Grandkids are also great for picking up items from low shelves!

Loading and unloading groceries can also take a toll on the back if not done with care.  A rolling cart is again a helpful tool to bring all the cold items to the fridge and freezer without added lifting.  

Kitchen floors are often made of a hard material like tile to make for easy cleanup.  But standing for long periods on these surfaces can lead to back and joint pain.  A cushioned kitchen mat or supportive foam shoes can help absorb stress and reduce pain. 

When it comes to chronic pain, most people will experience good days and bad days.  Prepping frequently-used ingredients like garlic and onions and stocking the freezer will help make cooking easier on the hard days.  Many stores also sell pre-prepped vegetables, or frozen cooked grains that cut down on cooking time – and when pain is flaring up, it’s perfectly ok to “cheat” with a jarred sauce, no-boil noodles, or ready-make soup stock. 

Because back pain is worsened by carrying extra weight, cooking healthy meals can be a rewarding endeavour that helps to improve overall well-being.  When ingredients are under your own control, added sugars and refined carbohydrates commonly found in prepared and processed foods can be avoided, helping to decrease inflammation and perhaps reducing symptoms of chronic back pain.