Sunday, June 02, 2002

Cooking can be a pain in the back

        Careful with that casserole. Lifting it could throw your back out. The same is true of pulling a big turkey from the oven or heaving a bag of charcoal out of the trunk.

        Cooking can be — but shouldn't be — hazardous to your back health, says Dr. Richard Sawicki, director of Healthstar Chiropractic in Montgomery. Although he never has treated anyone specifically for a back injury suffered in the kitchen, Dr. Sawicki says it happens.

        “People working in kitchens (professional or home) can have the same kind of back problems as construction workers,” he says.

        Improper lifting, which can cause microtraumas to the vertebrae, is the biggest culprit. Unfortunately, those who don't know how to properly pull a casserole ut of the oven also are likely to pick up a bag of mulch incorrectly. The microtraumas continue to mount and ouch! The reckless, improper lifter has suffered a painful herniated disk or other injury, which could take months to heal.

        OK, we know you're wondering. What's the proper way to pull a casserole out of the oven?

        First, Dr. Sawicki recommends lifting it “mentally.”

        “It's important to know where you're going to put the object before you lift it,” he says. “The worst thing is picking up something heavy and have to twist and turn to put it down.”

        Once you've visualized lifting and placing the casserole, here's the correct way to lift it or another heavy object.

        1. Get as close to the object to be lifted as possible.

        2. Keep your elbows in.

        3. Bend your legs while keeping your back as straight as possible.

        4. Pick up the object to desired height before you turn.

        5. Turn and place the object.

        Now, you've executed a proper casserole lift and spared your back painful microtraumas.

        Here are more back safety tips from Dr. Sawicki for working in the kitchen:

        • Keep your kitchen floor clutter-free, meaning no toys or small children. This can not only prevent falls, but can help you avoid back strain and sprain. Even if you lift the casserole properly, you can still injure your back while stepping over a mislaid action figure or crawling kid. Again: Look before you lift.

        • Installing pot racks in your kitchen at or near eye level can save much bending — and back strain.

        • Non-slip anti-fatigue mats placed in front of the stove or sink can reduce pressure on your disks while standing.

        • Try not to lean over a sink or other work place for long periods of time. To lessen stress on your lower back, alternately bend each knee while standing. Do not lock your knees while standing.

        • Find a pair of running shoes, sneakers or other comfortable shoes and wear them while working in the kitchen. Try not to change shoes more than once or twice during the day. If your back hurts after working in the kitchen, try wearing different shoes.

        • To avoid over-reaching, use a short, sturdy step-stool in the kitchen.


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