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Need Help with Back and Knee Pain


BeetsandBlueCheese
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I started work at this amazing three star restaurant at the beginning of July and for the first time I have been having serious back and knee pain issues. I've worked in The Industry for about two years and have just finished culinary school, but am now working sixteen hours a day five days a week. I've had Danskos, but like Sanitas better for their fit and durability and have some pretty good insoles that a friend recommended to me. The meat cook had to leave recently due to blinding back pain and an inability to stand, and nobody knows if he's going to be able to come back full time.

I am looking ahead to a long career in this field but I don't want to be hobbled by chronic pain, but I know some of it is unavoidable, but I don't want it to be something that will keep me from working.

Does any body have any suggestions or experience in dealing with this? I'm open to pretty much anything.

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I have a whole lot of knee problems which have led to problems (and pain) in other areas (hips, back, etc). For relieving pain, I use massage treatments and acupuncture. Deep tissue massage works especially well, and for me, the more "modern" acupuncture where electric currents are sent through the needles worked better than more traditional acupuncture.

For helping prevent pain, stretching is very important. During a slow period, or during your break, do a series of stretches--especially for your lower body. For several years, two or three times a year, I would get very bad lower back cramps that would put me out for a week or so. It was discovered that my back pains were caused by very tight hip flexors (which were in turn caused by a change in posture/gait because of my knee problems), which would pull on the muscles in my back. Stretching out my hip flexors and the other muscles in that area (a few times a day) helped prevent recurrences, and once I started doing yoga, it pretty much went away. I haven't had really bad pains in years, and whenever I feel like my back is tightening up, I spend I little extra time stretching to help ease the muscles.

I think pilates might help, too, since it strengthens your core muscles which helps with posture. You work very long hours, but if you can fit a class or two in on your days off, you might want to give it a try.

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Be sure to watch your posture, and check your table height...it might be too low. You might find yourself stooping a bit and not realizing it. Also, what helps me a bit was switching out shoes...danskos one day, tennies the next, italian medical clogs the next. Yes, you can never get too much stretching!

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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Similar to Prasantrin, my husband has suffered from knee problems for years that then started causing hip and back problems also. Finally a doctor sent him to a physical therapist that worked with him 3x/wk for about 8 wks. He know does these 2x/day that are mostly exercises to strenghten him muscles and stretching. It has made a lot of difference.

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and once I started doing yoga, it pretty much went away.

yeah- I'd second that- physical activity of that sort does help- when I started doing Yoga and Wushu, it really helped me build myself up.

of course taking a fall and destroying my right knee (ripped under kneecap) kind of sidelined me for the long haul, so far as professional restaurant cooking goes, but continuing my physical regimen at least rehabilitated me enough that I can move around normally, even if I can't stand for long periods of time.

sincerely,

Dante

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I've worked in commercial kitchens for 32 years now and have had 3 knee surgeries in that time. A lot of physical therapy has strengthened the knees so that they are not the major problem any more. Right now it's definitely the feet (planter fasciitis) and hips for pain.

Massage, jacuzzi/hot tub/whirlpool, and heat have all helped. And I really have to second the recommendation for Pilates. Not only does it strengthen the core muscles, it helps develop fluidity and lengthens and stretches muscles as well. I found the Pilates reformer more effective than Pilates mat classes. I've done Pilates for 2 years and highly recommend it for knees, hips and backs.

Svarupa yoga is great for backs. Getting into the poses takes longer because the movements are done more slowly and they are held longer. The mat is heavily padded with extra blankets to support the body. Several people in the class I took were there specifically to deal with back pain.

Swimming may also help because of the support water gives your body while you are exercising. And exercise really is the key to all of this. Kitchen work can be quite strenuous. Moving your energy and keeping the body energy moving is important because it ultimately helps keep the job stress on the body in check.

Good luck.

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My only advice is to avoid non steroidal anti inflamatory drugs. After years of taking pain meds, these NSAIDs had damaged my kidneys and I am now on dialysis and waiting for a transplant. Take care of yourself!

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First, get some custom insoles for your shoes. Helps alot when you're standing on your feet that long.

Second, if you have time, try some weight training. To reduce joint pain, strengthening the surrounding muscles is key. Strength training also leads to better overall body posture.

Third - working 80 hour weeks isn't healthy. I've done it, most other cooks who have worked in top restaurants have done it. It's just not worth it.

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Be sure to watch your posture, and check your table height...it might be too low. You might find yourself stooping a bit and not realizing it. Also, what helps me a bit was switching out shoes...danskos one day, tennies the next, italian medical clogs the next. Yes, you can never get too much stretching!

Switching up your shoes, even during your shifts, if you can, will really help your leg muscles. Table height and repetitive motions are common factors in workplace related injury. Check heights; adjust if possible--raise your work surface on blocks if you are tall; build a platform below if you are short. Get anti-fatigue mats for the floor.

Support stockings/socks will help manage blood-flow in your legs; your legs tire less, then your back doesn't try to compensate (as much).

Try and switch-up the tasks a little so that you can spend time moving around (i.e., up & down the stairs or around into the storeroom) rather than always standing at the same *#&% cooktop/bench.

Get out of the kitchen and go for a walk. Then stretch.

80 hours is too long. But I am old.

Karen Dar Woon

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First, get some custom insoles for your shoes.  Helps alot when you're standing on your feet that long.

Second, if you have time, try some weight training.  To reduce joint pain, strengthening the surrounding muscles is key.  Strength training also leads to better overall body posture.

Third - working 80 hour weeks isn't healthy.  I've done it, most other cooks who have worked in top restaurants have done it.  It's just not worth it.

And when he says custom insoles I think he means go to a podiatrist. Tell him/her about your work. You may have to break them in. Mine seemed to cause more pain for like the first 3 or days but after that a noticeable difference.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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I have arthritis in my SI joints (where hips hook onto spine, very low back) and in my knees, so I can relate. Two things.

1. Stretching is a lot more help than you'd think it would be. Strengthening is bound to help, too.

2. The voice of experience: once you've wrecked your joints, you're done. Knee replacements, while possible, are expensive and extremely painful. I'm hoping to put mine off as long as possible. But your back. . .well, simply put, you don't want anyone cutting on your back for any reason. Most back surgeries aren't terribly successful and carry high risk. In my case, there is no surgery for SI joints.

Listen to what the people (above) say when they tell you that 80 hours is too long to work, and it's not worth it. I know you're thrilled to be working where you are, but if you can't modify it somehow, and give those joints a rest, you're going to pay for it later. It's a very dear price to pay.

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I started work at this amazing three star restaurant at the beginning of July and for the first time I have been having serious back and knee pain issues. I've worked in The Industry for about two years and have just finished culinary school, but am now working sixteen hours a day five days a week. I've had Danskos, but like Sanitas better for their fit and durability and have some pretty good insoles that a friend recommended to me. The meat cook had to leave recently due to blinding back pain and an inability to stand, and nobody knows if he's going to be able to come back full time.

I am looking ahead to a long career in this field but I don't want to be hobbled by chronic pain, but I know some of it is unavoidable, but I don't want it to be something that will keep me from working.

Does any body have any suggestions or experience in dealing with this? I'm open to pretty much anything.

I don't work in the food industry, but I did work on the line in a factory or two. I always hurt when I first started the job, but after a month or so the required muscles would get used to it. So I imagine that the strength and flexibility training suggested above might do the trick.

Also, the ergonomics of your station probably has a lot to do with it. I was having trouble in my cube with back, wrist, neck pain (yes, I'm one of those) and just raising the display 8 inches, getting a chair that fit me, and sitting up straight made all the difference. I'd imagine you'd run into similar situations in the kitchen (counter height, etc)

Edited by MattJohnson (log)
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I don't work in the food industry either, but have suffered from terrible low back pain. The answer was exercises given to me at Physical Therapy to strengthen the muscles. I was skeptical, but it works, and it starts to show results in just a few weeks.

The same is true of exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the knee, but in my case my arthritis got the better of my knee and the strengthening came too late, and I had to have a total knee replacement. But I'm doing those exercises for my good knee to keep it that way.

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Practicing Physical Therapy for 18 years, I highly recommend you visit one. A PT can address a multitude of issues including posture, muscle imbalances, strength, proper body mechanics and ergonomics. Trust me, if you devote yourself to a regimen which addresses the whole picture your body mileage will increase.

Take the time to educate yourself about your body and how to care for it. Without devotion to a physical regimen, you'll wear out before your time!

Good luck.

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One of the biggest problems with people that have sore backs all the time is because their abdominal muscles are weak. The upper body is relying on your back to support itself when the abdominals should be helping keeping you upright. Work stations that are too low will put undue stress on your back and not allow your stomach muscles to hep out. Do sit ups, crunches, leg lifts. As far as your knees are concerned, don't lock them. Do squats every so often to keep your back stretched and your thighs stretched.

Edited by Octaveman (log)

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I learned everything I needed to know about the glamorous world of fine dining by watching Thomas Keller spend 45 minutes wrapping his ankles and knees before service every day.

Holy cow!

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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there's only been two place's I've worked ( one currently) where everything is killing me.

I've worked very long hours before likewise and no problem.

I have a theory about the floors in the kitchen and how they're installed and what kind of foundatin it is.

I've read several other chefs talking about the kind of floors they like and hate.

Bummer about Keller!

What does one do about your hips though?

2317/5000

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It's not the shoes. Pilates, yoga, etc all help, but you won't be able to practice them with any regularity if you are working those hours. Bottom line- 16 hours a day is about 6 hours too long to be on your feet. You need to get off your feet for some of those 16 hours or you are going to end up just like the meat guy. Do you want to be able to take a walk with your kids/grandkids?

Any dish you make will only taste as good as the ingredients you put into it. If you use poor quality meats, old herbs and tasteless winter tomatoes I don’t even want to hear that the lasagna recipe I gave you turned out poorly. You're a cook, not a magician.

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As a FOH & BOH Person, the one thing I can recommend is Z Coil shoes but you MUST have them fitted at a store to get the right coil strength. Not exactly pretty but worth it. http://www.zcoil.com They take the impact off your heel and in turn your lower back. Cost is between $175 and $250. I have heard the enclosed heel ones (where you can't see the spring) don't work as well, but a kitchen is not a fashion show anyway. Learned about these from some nurses who work hellish shifts on hard floors. I was almost crippled after 14-16 hr shifts till I tried these.

All the best...

Mol

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Shoes are expensive

So is fixing plantar fasciitis, mangled achiles tendons, knees and hips

Your feet hurt you walk funny, so your knees hurt and you walk funny, and your hips twist sideways and you stop walking.

Could be fancy springy shoes or sneakers or clogs are the dream shoes for you but you must find them.

For 8 years I wore the same model LA Gear white hightop sneaker -new pair every 3 months. I watched them go from 100 to 20 dollars over that time, then they stopped making them. I survived another 2 yrs on my feet trying other shoe after shoe all the while in PT, it is 2 years out this week and the swelling in my ankles hasn't gone down yet.

tracey

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As a FOH & BOH Person, the one thing I can recommend is Z Coil shoes but you MUST have them fitted at a store to get the right coil strength.  Not exactly pretty but worth it.  http://www.zcoil.com  They take the impact off your heel and in turn your lower back.  Cost is between $175 and $250.  I have heard the enclosed heel ones (where you can't see the spring) don't work as well, but a kitchen is not a fashion show anyway.  Learned about these from some nurses who work hellish shifts on hard floors.  I was almost crippled after 14-16 hr shifts till I tried these.

All the best...

Mol

Interesting - I ended up in ER a couple of weeks ago with 2 fractured ribs. As I was lying in my bed with an IV pumping pain medication into me, I noticed that most of the staff were walking around with these odd looking springy type shoes. Reminded me of Tigger. Upon inquiry, my nurse told me they were Z Coil shoes and she then went about praising the benefits of wearing them in her line of work.

A few days later, thinking about my wife, who suffers from chronic lower back pain, I called a friend who is an ER doc at a different hospital and asked if he had ever heard of Z Coils. His immediate response was, "Certainly, we all wear them". He followed by stating "Anyone with a job that requires them being on their feet 5 or more hours a day, everyday, should seriously consider Z Coils".

My wife has an appointment for a fitting next week.

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