Knee pain is a common complaint among chefs. Standing all day in the same position wreaks havoc on joints. David Smith, owner and director of the Egoscue Clinic in San Francisco, says alleviating the pain is not that complicated.
“Knee pain is caused when the alignment of the knee is off,” Smith explains. “When you’re a chef, you usually use your dominant hand for chopping, which leads to a pattern that creates a rotation in your upper body and hips and creates a twist, taking the knee with it. This creates an uneven weight distribution between the right and left side, causing tension and strain on the knee.”
Easing achy knees can be as simple as realigning the joint through simple exercises and repositioning your feet throughout the day, Smith says. “Counterbalancing the effects of being in the same position all day can be relieved through any kind of exercise that requires motion in both directions, such as tennis and basketball, as well as stretching exercises used in yoga,” says Smith. “There are also specific exercises, known as The Egoscue Method, that are specifically designed to help realign your knees.”
In the middle of a 10-hour shift you probably don’t have time to stop for special exercises, so try changing your stance. “If you’re getting a lot of knee pain during work, try changing the positioning of your body,” says Smith. “Turn your feet out or pigeon toe your feet while you’re at the work table; anything that will change the position of the knee joint will relieve the pressure on the joint and can be a tremendous help in relieving your pain during work. Afterward, be sure to work on rehabbing the knee.”
If you’re already at the point of considering knee surgery, Smith recommends trying to rehab the knee first. “There’s nothing wrong with seeing a doctor to get more information about your condition,” says Smith. “But the more you can do from a rehab standpoint to correct the problem and avoid surgery, the better.”
The Egoscue Method
Try these exercises from The Egoscue Clinic that have been designed to realign knee joints.
1. Sit in the middle of a chair with your feet pointed straight ahead, 4-6 inches apart.
2. Place a pillow between your knees.
3. Roll your hips forward to create an arch in your low back and hold this position throughout the exercise.
4. Squeeze and release the pillow with your knees.
Sitting Abductor Presses (3 sets of 20 repetitions)
2. Place a strap around your knees.
3. Roll your pelvis forward to create a small arch in your low back and hold this position throughout the exercise.
4. Press outward against the strap, then release.
Sitting Floor (hold for 3 minutes)
1. Sit against a wall with your legs straight out in front of you (your buttocks and upper back should be against the wall the entire time).
2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold (do not lift the shoulders; only squeeze them back and down).
3. Tighten the thighs and flex the feet back so that your toes are pointing back toward you.
4. The keys are to keep your shoulder blades pulled together, your thighs tight and your feet flexed back.