Everyday Chores & Chronic Pain

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By Jacqueline Rubinstein

One of my summer pastimes (and jobs) is helping in kitchens that feed the construction crews for big festivals and fairs, such as the Oregon Country Faire and Pickathon. It is great fun cooking for large, greatly appreciative groups of hungry, hardworking, fun-loving folks.

This also means I have washed a ton of dishes and chopped hundreds of vegetables this summer. So, I had a lot of time to think about normal, everyday chores and consider how they contribute to chronic pain.

I have a few musings to share from my long, hot kitchen hours… I noticed that usually when my back began to ache it was because I had inched away from the sink or counter. If I just stepped a bit closer, so my belly was touching the counter/sink, then the aching almost immediately went away.

And when I was standing at the stove, stirring large pots of soups, chili, rice, etc., my body would get really tired. So I would shift from one foot to the other foot and then back in the middle on both feet, and I found this movement helped to ease my discomfort since I couldn’t just abandon my chili.

After hours of chopping vegetables, and many more to chop, I realized I needed to sit down for a bit. I found if I sat in a relatively tall chair and used a table surface that allowed my elbow to be at an angle slightly larger than 90 degrees, then I could chop beautifully, while sitting, with no pain or fatigue.

In general, the key was to mix it up! Healthy posture is the ability to move in a myriad of directions with ease. Overuse in any one position is exhausting and painful. Raising your awareness and trying out different positions is a creative and consistent way of relieving your pain and discomfort.

So the next time you are washing the dishes, notice how are you standing and try out a few different postures. Notice what feels good and how long it feels good for.

When you get fatigued, switch positions before it hurts. This is a practice; it doesn’t come naturally. And it will get easier the more you practice paying attention and finding new, creative ways to stand, sit, walk, and move.

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