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Tips for avoiding back pain – the kitchen

by Jane Hodgson 24 February 2010


The bending and stretching involved in getting food and utensils from cupboards, the fridge or the oven, combined with the sustained postures used when working at the sink or worktop can be a frequent source of backpain. Try these simple tips to minimise your risk of back pain and maximise your chances of been able to sit in comfort to enjoy the food you have prepared.

1. Food storage

To avoid unnecessary bending and stretching:

  • Store the most frequently used light goods between elbow and shoulder height.
  • Store infrequently used light goods at the top of your cupboards.
  • Store frequently used heavy goods at waist level.
  • Store infrequently used heavy goods at the base of cupboards. Remember when you do need these items to lift by bending your knees, keeping your back straight.
  • Consider using storage cupboards that have pull outs to decrease the amount of stretching to reach items which are at the back of the cupboard.
  • Get a fridge freezer with the fridge compartment at the top. You access the fridge more frequently than the freezer so this restricts the amount of bending needed.

2. Food preparation

  • Ensure the worktop is the correct height for you. This will depend on your height. If the worktop is too low you will have to stoop over it causing back pain. However if the worktop is too high you will have to work with your arms lifted up risking shoulder pain.
  • Alter your height of worktop by altering your height relative to it – either by standing an a small stool, to lower the worktop height, or raise the work top height by putting your food preparation on for instance an upturned washing up bowl.

3. Doing the dishes

Washing the dishes is a provocative activity for back pain sufferers consider

  • Raise the washing up bowl by placing a second upturned washing up bowl underneath it
  • Treat yourself to a dishwasher, but remember to bend your knees and keep your back straight when loading and unloading the lower shelf.

4. The oven

  • A side opening oven requires less bending and stretching when getting items in and out of the oven that an oven with a door hinged at the bottom.
  • When lifting a very heavy item out of a low oven consider staging the lift - for instance you could slide the cooked item out onto a heatproof stool or low table then lift from there

5. Vary your task

  • Any posture sustained for a prolonged period of time is not healthy for the spine.
  • If preparing a significant amount of food for instance for a party try to pace yourself over several days, preparing dishes in advance and freezing.
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Change frequently from one task to another.


Disclaimer: The information on this page is written to help you avoid injury. There are many possible causes for back pain and should you have any concerns you should always seek advice from a qualified health professional such as a Chartered Physiotherapist or your GP.

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About the author

Jane Hodgson - Chartered Physiotherapist Jane Hodgson Jane specialises in lower body injuries and has raced competitively in running, orienteering and adventure racing.

Did you know

2.7 million accidents happen each year in homes in th UK requiring hospital treatment (RoSPA)

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