This article was inspired by my sister. She is the resident chef for all of our major family gatherings, like Christmas and Thanksgiving. She does such an amazing job at preparing absolutely delicious mouth watering meals that could feed 20-35 guests. I’ve always told her she should quit her job and open a restaurant….I’m still hopeful.
Cooking such large quantities of food is no easy task. I can pretty much expect that by the end of the evening, she will be complaining of something hurting and request some physio.
My initial research for this topic on scientific research databases yielded an abundance of research articles on burns and lacerations. That’s a little heavy and not what I’m getting at with this article. Rather, I’m talking about the aches and pains related to prolonged postures, repetitive movements, and perhaps some heavy lifting as well.
I decided to interview my sister on this topic to help get the conversation started and decide what kind of information would be helpful to write about.
Me: Thanks for agreeing to interview. How many hours on average do you feel it takes to prepare a full meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas?
Sister: It’s my pleasure to help. It’s hard to pin down specifically how many hours. It starts about a week prior to the day. It involves a deep house cleaning, sometimes furniture set up and the last two days is almost non stop.
Me: Is there a meal that is more labour intensive than others to prepare?
Sister: I would say prepping the turkey is the most labour intensive thing to prepare. Because of its sheer size. I’m usually working with in excess of 25 lbs of slippery and awkward bird. This year’s was 28 lbs. Next, I would say all the peeling. Carrots, potatoes. I try to get that done by someone else or at least complete those tasks in a seated position.
Me: What are the typical aches and pains you feel after all is said and done?
Sister: My most critical areas of pain are my feet and my mid to lower back. I have flat feet and my ankles swell up like…(censored).
Me: What do you do to manage the pain and swelling?
Sister: The pain I usually suck up in hopes that a PT wants to practice on me later. As for the swelling, I try to keep my feet elevated whenever possible while completing a tedious task like cutting green beans or peeling sweet potatoes. I also increase water intake because water is good for everything and sometimes I take an ibuprofen at the end of the night.
Me: Awesome. This PT accepts turkey as payment by the way. Thanks for your time and for sharing. See you at Easter!
So I got a few things out of this conversation with my sister:
- Back pain and foot pain are a primary concern.
- Prolonged standing and heavy lifting seem to be aggravating factors
- My sister still thinks I’m looking for practice after a decade in the field and treating tens of thousands of patients. Gotta love her.
If you are unlucky enough to have flat feet like my sister and I (thanks Dad!), you might notice it very difficult to stand for long periods. Normally the arch at the bottom of your foot is designed to absorb shock and maintain neutral alignment of your knees and hips. When this arch is low or flattened (Pes Planus), it may predispose you to lower extremity injury and back pain.
Walking around barefoot or even in flimsy slippers can really aggravate the situation. I recommend wearing supportive footwear, like running shoes in the house to help reduce the impact on your joints.
You might want to also look into custom orthotics. I have personally found orthotics to be very helpful. You may need a script from your family doctor in order for these to be covered by an insurance company, so definitely look into that before spending the money. They need to be replaced roughly every two years depending on how much you wear them and what you’re doing with them.
In London Ontario, I see a certified pedorthist/registered physiotherapist, named Anthony Abado. He is awesome and always delivers exceptional customer service.
Next, try to break up long periods of standing with a break or a change of positions. Plan to have tasks you can do in a seated position, like peeling potatoes, available to interrupt your standing. Try not to stand for more than 20-30 minutes at a time before switching positions.
Enlisting the help of family and friends is also a great way to share the load and get everyone involved. It’s great to have extra hands to help peel, chop, stir, etc. Lifting a 25 lbs bird into an oven may have to be a two person job!
Stretching can help reduce the tension built up in your muscles during the day. Check out this post to help improve the way you stretch and maximize the benefits. 5 Quick Tips for Better Stretching. You might use a stretch break to interrupt some of the prolonged standing as well.
For back pain related to muscle tension, I like the child’s pose stretch.
From a kneeling position, rock your hips back so that they are close or touching your heels. Extend your arms forward and reach your fingertips as far as you can go without letting your hips come up. Gently rest your head on the floor. Continue to breathe normally and try to hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds. You should feel a nice stretch in your back, hips, and shoulder.
Lastly, you might want to make sure your Back Pain Survival Kit is ready to go prior to the event. Click the link for some ideas on what kind of thing you should keep handy.