A Recipe for Cooking Without Pain

Written By: Ionie Moragahakumbura, PT, DPT

Living with chronic pain can be difficult in all stages of life. In order to maintain your independence with regular activities, including cooking and taking care of your house, some modifications may be necessary to minimize exacerbation of symptoms that you may regularly experience.

We all must eat at some point in our day for energy. While appetites vary, a certain amount of meal preparation is required prior to eating a meal. Some suggestions related to pain-free cooking include incorporating regular rest breaks and making smaller tasks out of cooking a large meal. For a meal that usually takes one hour to make, divide it up into sections. Initially start with vegetable and meat preparation, including washing, cutting, and seasoning followed by a rest break or a stretching break. Next, partake in the cooking process. Finally, save clean-up for after another break. Many people want to push through, but slow and steady wins the race in this situation.

Other modifications might include performing some pre-preparation in a seated position or with one foot resting on top of a stool to minimize weight on a painful joint. Pulling up a stool next to the stove is also an option for dishes that need more attention like frequent stirring or adjusting heat. The upcoming fall and winter holidays often mean more cooking for those who traditionally host gatherings. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, create a potluckstyle menu or have friends come over earlier to spend time with you as your sous chef. This also applies to requesting a group effort to help clean up dishes, pack away extra food and do other clean-up after dessert is finished.

As a busy mom of a young family, I look to one-pot meals (including crockpot, stovetop, and sheet pan in the oven). This results in decreased clean up and decreased standing time waiting for food to be cooked. While my motives may be different, I save time on cooking to spend time on other things I wish to enjoy. The internet is a huge source of recipes for easy and simple meals. Cooking shows, bookstores, and even YouTube have insightful tips to simplify cooking as well.

It is important to have an open dialogue with your therapist about the goals you wish to achieve in your course of care. Therapists are a wealth of information to help advise you not only in exercises but also with ideas about how to perform different tasks in different postures or positions to decrease your pain.

Bon appetit, or should I say, Bon a PT!


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