Can you smell those chestnuts roasting on an open fire? The holidays are a special time for getting together with family and friends—and that almost always means indulging in lots of good food and seasonal treats. The problem is, cooking and baking can be extremely challenging tasks for people living with chronic pain.
Keep It Simple
Before your holiday meal can make it to the table, a lot needs to happen, including shopping, lifting and lots of repetitive motion like measuring, slicing, chopping and stirring that can cause pain flare-ups and physical setbacks. If you are living with chronic pain, the key to success in the kitchen is to simplify the work and adapt your tasks to the limitations of your body. There are several simple steps you can take to make cooking and baking your favorite recipes more manageable:
- Plan Ahead
Look at your holiday meal plan and decide what items can be made ahead of time. Cooking some items in advance can save you the physical strain of doing everything in one day. For example, you might precook large amounts of ground beef and freeze it in meal-size portions until you need it for a specific recipe. If you love to bake, you could spread your baking sessions out over a few weeks. Also, you could shop ahead of time so you have all the ingredients on hand for those days when you’re feeling well enough to tackle cooking.
- Break Down the Tasks
You might want to consider measuring and mixing your dry ingredients and storing them in individual bags until you’re ready to use them. Also, you can cut, chop or slice ingredients over the course of a few days and store them in airtight containers so they’ll be ready when you need them.
- Embrace Appliances
Living in the modern age has many advantages—including electric appliances! Automated food processors, mixers, graters, blenders and can openers are at your disposal. They not only simplify the cooking process and save time, they save your body from countless repetitive motions.
- Use Pots and Pans with Two Handles
Two hands are always better than one when lifting an object. This is especially true for chronic pain sufferers, who should evenly distribute any weight that needs to be lifted, whenever possible.
- Consider a Crock Pot
Crock pots are a simple way to deliver delicious meals with less muss and fuss.
- Choose Wisely
If you’re planning on making a complicated recipe, ask yourself if there’s an easier one that will satisfy your holiday needs while not being physically overwhelming.
- Take a Seat
For most people living with chronic pain, standing for prolonged periods of time can be very difficult. You can chop and mix just as well sitting down as you can standing up, so take a few moments to rearrange the placement of your cutting board.
- Stop, Stretch and Move
Taking breaks can help you manage your chronic pain. Set a timer to go off every hour and take a 20-minute break in a comfortable chair. If you have low back pain, lean on a high countertop with both hands and stretch to take some pressure off your spinal joints. And if you’re not comfortable, change your position. Use step stools, books or pillows to help you get into positions that are comfortable and sustainable for your body.
- Ask for Help
Cooking can be a lot more fun when you do it with someone else, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. Remember, the holiday season is also called “the season of giving,” so the time is ripe to accept the kindness of others.
These simple tips should help make your holidays a little easier. If you’d like to learn more about options for addressing your chronic pain—or need some relief for holiday pain flare-ups, we encourage you to call Pain Management and Injury Relief at (877) 724-6349 to make an appointment today.