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Nutrition

6 Ways to Prevent Back Pain When Cooking

Making a big meal doesn’t have to be a pain.

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What’s on the menu tonight at your house? Pasta primavera? Turkey meatloaf? Shrimp and grits? You’re probably looking forward to grabbing that spatula, putting on some tunes, and whipping up your family’s favorite dish. But even if cooking is your favorite activity, it’s no fun when being on your feet for so long starts to hurt your back. Instead of toasting with a twinge or sautéing with a spasm, use these strategies to help:

Get a supportive mat. Adding soft cushioning beneath your feet in the form of a foam or gel mat may make you more comfortable while slicing and dicing. If you’re shopping online, search for an “anti-fatigue mat” or “comfort mat” to find one that’s thick. You’ll want the bottom to be skid-resistant and the top to be nonslip and easy to clean. They come in various shapes, sizes, and designs, so you can find one that suits your space and taste.

Use a cookbook stand. Think about how much time you spend hunched over the countertop reading a cookbook. It doesn’t have to be this way. Get yourself a cute stand to lift the cookbook and tilt it toward you so your posture doesn't suffer. If you’re more of a digital diva and prefer following electronic recipes, put your tablet or phone on the stand instead. As a bonus, when these items are elevated, they're less likely to get drizzled with stray sauce.  

Store heavy items wisely. Quit crouching down low or getting on your tiptoes to reach for large, weighty items like the food processor, panini press, mixer, or bread machine. When possible, put the objects you use often on a waist-high shelf. You can also recruit another person to help you lift that Dutch oven.

Be careful when bending. Whether you’re bending down to pick up a dropped carrot or your stand mixer, you want your legs to do the work of lifting, not your back. Plant your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, and squat while keeping your back straight. Not only will this put less strain on your back, but it’ll also help tone your legs, rear, and core (who knew cooking was a workout?).

Speaking of workouts: Exercise your abs. Having a strong core will help keep your back strong. And don’t forget to stretch your hips and upper legs: Flexibility there can help keep your hips in proper alignment, which will make your back feel better. If you have any health conditions, consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.

Take breaks. Often, cooking calls for a “hurry up and wait” approach. While something is sizzling or roasting, sit down to rest, or use that time to stretch your lower back. If you’re making something that requires you to stand for a while, like risotto or dough, alternate putting one foot at a time on a low footstool to alleviate pressure.

Find other great health and wellness stories at EatingWell.com/Strive.