vgcea Posted 27 Jul 2012 , 5:46pm
post #1 of

This is not a topic I've seen discussed here so...

The other day I was working on a cake on a low surface and had to bend forward and real low to work. My back was protesting and I thought to myself, "I'm breaking all the rules of good posture, straining my back, center of gravity all out of whack." This is not how to cake long-term.

I finally grabbed a chair so that I could sit up straight, and work with the cake at close to eye level.

I've read of cakers who have developed back problems from lifting heavy cakes, and arthritis from flower-making.

What tips have you learned to deal with the occupational hazards of cake decorating?

49 replies
DeniseNH Posted 27 Jul 2012 , 6:01pm
post #2 of

Decrease my orders to just a few per week. icon_smile.gif

vgcea Posted 27 Jul 2012 , 6:15pm
post #3 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeniseNH

Decrease my orders to just a few per week. icon_smile.gif



I'm glad you brought that up DeniseNH, psychological wellness and decreasing stress is definitely part of healthy caking.

JuliSchulze Posted 27 Jul 2012 , 6:23pm
post #4 of

If I do have to stand for a long time, good supportive shoes and a nice gel matt to stand on!

Unlimited Posted 27 Jul 2012 , 6:40pm
post #5 of

If you stand in the same workspace for long, it helps to relieve back stress if you can prop one foot up on something a little higher (like an upside-down bucket or the shelf below a stainless steel table).

If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, it helps to wear tight elastic wristbands on both wrists while piping roses. You need two because while one hand squeezes the pastry bag, the other hand is holding and twisting the rose nail or stick which can cause more damage to that hand than to your piping/decorating hand.

BakingIrene Posted 27 Jul 2012 , 7:13pm
post #6 of

Look at any industrial supply catalog or website. They have things line mini hydraulic lifters that work by pumping up the pressure manually. These work great to lift cakes gently.

Whether youa re working at home or in a bakery, you need to have the cake on the proper level or it will not be decorated evenly. Sorry, there's no way around the ergonomic requirement.

For long time standing, there are special mats that work very well and are worth the $$$. You can also use workboot insoles but the mats are much better.

Counter has to be the right height or your back will be in pain after 30 minutes. VERY important for all cooking.

vgcea Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 6:09am
post #7 of
Quote:
Originally Posted by BakingIrene

Look at any industrial supply catalog or website. They have things line mini hydraulic lifters that work by pumping up the pressure manually. These work great to lift cakes gently.

Whether youa re working at home or in a bakery, you need to have the cake on the proper level or it will not be decorated evenly. Sorry, there's no way around the ergonomic requirement.

For long time standing, there are special mats that work very well and are worth the $$$. You can also use workboot insoles but the mats are much better.

Counter has to be the right height or your back will be in pain after 30 minutes. VERY important for all cooking.




Thanks for all the tips everyone.

@ the bolded: I learned this the hard way. So about how high relative to a person's body does the counter have to be? I'm trying to figure if I need to invest in a taller turntable. With my lazy susan on the counter, the top of the lazy susan falls about the level of my navel so I find I still need to lean forward especially when applying BC or ganache.

FromScratchSF Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 6:51am
post #8 of

<body is trashed. I work in a communal kitchen so I have zero control over the equipment, tables, sinks, etc. I wish.

I have major back problems. A slipped disk below and a few bulging disks above a healed fracture that causes sciatica in both legs. I have been in therapy for over a year which has really helped me to keep proper posture when working, core stability along with how I should be standing and how to properly lift stuff. I'm also taking orthopedic pilates.

There is no way to be ergonomical doing what we do, but as long as you are aware of what you *should* be doing and doing exercises to keep things moving and strong, theoretically things should be good. At least they tell me.

Me? I wear ugly-@ss super support sneakers fitted by a foot doctor and I wear grandma compression socks. I also wear a sports bra (very important!). I have a foam pad I kneel on, a chair to sit on, and my phone alarm set to beep every hour to remind me to stretch, especially roll my shoulders and stretch my neck.

And a rX for percocet. icon_biggrin.gif

In case you are wondering, childbirth was not kind to me.

vgcea Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 7:13am
post #9 of

FromScratchSF you're definitely a superwoman. Thank you for sharing your tips. I keep seeing comfortable footwear and mats in these responses. I'm going to invest in some caking shoes. After reading your post I got up and did some stretches. I'd been sitting at the computer for almost 2 hours icon_redface.gif

FromScratchSF Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 3:16pm

Naw, just stubborn. I mean, what else am I going to do, sit on my butt and watch Divorce Court all day? icon_biggrin.gif

I also do not work full time. I wish I could but I don't think my body can handle it so I'm not quite "super" yet.

Anyway stretching is SO important, especially those parts that you aren't using!

auntginn Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 3:44pm

And.. what about rolling out fondant. A few months back I went to the dr complaining of pain thinking I had one problem. He diagnosed arthritis in my back and put me on a pain killer treatment. In short I realized later that the pain was due to rolling out large pieces of fondant and putting all my weight from my back.

Could it be my table is too low? Not getting enough stretching ?? I've also wondered what I can do. My budget doesn't warrent another person just yet and I can't afford to cute back on work.

vgcea Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 3:49pm

I've always thought that rolling fondant on a low surface helps since gravity and your weight do much of the pressing down.

My issue with fondant is my wrists. I get a sharp pain every now and then and have to remind myself to use my weight not my wrist muscles to manipulate the fondant when I knead.

MJbakes Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 4:34pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by vgcea

I've always thought that rolling fondant on a low surface helps since gravity and your weight do much of the pressing down.

My issue with fondant is my wrists. I get a sharp pain every now and then and have to remind myself to use my weight not my wrist muscles to manipulate the fondant when I knead.




That's how I am as well, when I was pregnant with my first son I was diagnosed with carpol tunnel (spelling?) So when I'm not caking I wear a wrist brace on both wrists 24/7. My doctor actually suggested against me doing cakes because it may get worse...I'm just too stubborn to listen icon_rolleyes.gif

HappyCake10609 Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 4:38pm

heyyy! FromScratchSF... the sports bra tip is genius! I never would have thought of that, but being very well endowed I often get back pain from leaning over (even just slightly) to work on a cake... the girls are heavy!

One week last month, I had been working on cake after cake. Kneading pounds and pounds of fondant... I was finally working on my daughters cake and I got a charlie-horse like cramp in my forearm. It hurt so bad it was literally a blinding pain! So definitely going to have to remember to take a break every now an then!

Also, I easily get really involved and time gets away from me. I keep a bottle of water with me to keep hydrated and because I'll often work without realizing I should stop to eat, I've started keeping OJ with me to sip on and prevent my blood sugar from dropping (that was my husbands suggestion actually).

carmijok Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 4:45pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF



Me? I wear ugly-@ss super support sneakers fitted by a foot doctor and I wear grandma compression socks. I also wear a sports bra (very important!). I have a foam pad I kneel on, a chair to sit on, and my phone alarm set to beep every hour to remind me to stretch, especially roll my shoulders and stretch my neck.

And a rX for percocet. icon_biggrin.gif

In case you are wondering, childbirth was not kind to me.




Sounds like you're bringing 'sexy' back!
I too wear ugly-ass shoes, ankle supports, my hair pulled back (trust me, this is not attractive on me) and no makeup. And since I'm usually up until 3 in the morning on cake days my eyes are nice and puffy.

FromScratchSF Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 6:16pm

fondant is a tricky one. Yiu need to learn body mechanics. Think about this, when you give someone a massage, you last, what, 15 minutes? so how do massage therapists do it for 10 hours a day? they aren't necessarily stronger. they just practice moving from the core and hips. I used to use nothing but my arms and shoulders when rolling fondant, now all my strength comes from my core. I can't describe it, but google massage therapist body mechanics and read up on it, it will save your back a TON.

jackmo Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 6:37pm

i had stop making wedding cakes this year due to stress issues. My anxiety levels start going through the roof and the stress level was too high. one time my face was getting numb. if the cake is 2 tiered, wont be a problem. But the 3 to 4 tiers, especially stacked is a bit too much. Also those with corpal tunnel. i had it. I started taking b vitamins (b12 and B6) and omega 3 oil. The pain is gone.

jackmo Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 6:41pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by FromScratchSF

fondant is a tricky one. Yiu need to learn body mechanics. Think about this, when you give someone a massage, you last, what, 15 minutes? so how do massage therapists do it for 10 hours a day? they aren't necessarily stronger. they just practice moving from the core and hips. I used to use nothing but my arms and shoulders when rolling fondant, now all my strength comes from my core. I can't describe it, but google massage therapist body mechanics and read up on it, it will save your back a TON.




Thanks so much for the info,! it is greatly appriciated.

auntginn Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 7:32pm

FromScratchSF, will have to look into that. Never thought of it, great idea.

FromScratchSF Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 8:00pm

Glad my $ 100,000 in therapy is helping LOL!!!!!!

indydebi Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 9:00pm

Be aware of the signals your body sends you and PAY ATTENTION TO THEM.

I ignored some of these signals for a LONG time and it finally came down to the big decision. Because of a car wreck when I was 16, I have neck vertebrae issues and developed arthritis in my neck. It finally got to the point that I was told I had to either take care of it now or pay DEARLY for it later. Thus my hard, heart wretching decision that I had to close up shop. Bear in mind that I was doing catering, also, which is 10 to 100 times harder work than just cakes so I was really putting the wear and tear on me.

We have one body and it clearly knows what it can and cant' do anymore. Listen, pay attention, and take care of it.

Lots of good advice in this thread regarding good shoes (I always joked about wearing gramma shoes!), cushioned kitchen mats, lowering yourself or raising your cakes to eye level, etal.

auntginn Posted 28 Jul 2012 , 9:43pm

I agree, lots of us want to do this for sometime, but if we abuse our bodies it won't take it.

@FromScratchSF your too funny, rofl..

Norasmom Posted 29 Jul 2012 , 12:49am

I make sure I get plenty of sleep. Sleep is undervalued in our society. I don't bake at night, it makes being a mom a little more challenging but still makes for better health.

vgcea Posted 29 Jul 2012 , 1:21am
Quote:
Originally Posted by Norasmom

I make sure I get plenty of sleep. Sleep is undervalued in our society. I don't bake at night, it makes being a mom a little more challenging but still makes for better health.




Sometimes I wish I could get my mind to realize this. I'm one of those who analyze a cake for weeks before it's due. The minute I start to doze off I get an idea and I have to write it down, google it, and before you know it I'm wide awake LOL! SMH. I'm going need a bedside notepad soon.

costumeczar Posted 29 Jul 2012 , 2:43am

It's not just the back stuff, I have a list of things that are wrong because of these stupid cakes. My therapy helped but unless you can change the way that you stand etc the problems will just come right back. Here's a cautionary list of maladies: http://acaketorememberva.blogspot.com/2011/08/freak-baking-injuries.html

jason_kraft Posted 29 Jul 2012 , 3:51am

I recommend limiting the amount of work with repetitive motions and taking frequent breaks to exercise other muscles. I don't bake or decorate cakes, but I do work at a computer all day, and I was on the verge of an RSI when I started going to a personal trainer who tied in elements of PT and OT exercises to my training routine. I haven't had any problems since then.

auntginn Posted 29 Jul 2012 , 4:15am

From now on I'm going to keep my phone alarm or other timer for 1hr intervals and take a 5 min breather. Which not only will include stretching, drinking liquids but when ever possible a quite walk around the building. And Oh yes, a nibble of something here and there.

Keeping up with ourselves is not only important to ourselves, but for our families sake (their the ones who will have to take care of us when we are broken down) and to our lively hood.

scp1127 Posted 29 Jul 2012 , 9:45am

I ended my construction company because of an injury. This business is really for my daughter, but for now, it's my responsibility.

This time around I was proactive about my health. I have that $200.00 Gel Mat. The less expensive ones are nowhere near the same product.

A big one... my husband prescribes these innersoles that are also used as preventive maintenance along with being for already sore feet. They are made by Foot Leveler. You have to stand on a mold to have them done. I'm sure any brand a doctor sells would be good. Athletes use these to insure against arch and heel issues.

Between the mat and the innersoles, and I use Nike Shox and Merrill shoes, I can stand for long periods. And I do have some arch problems because of ladders.

I have also religiously used an elastic brace on my wrist since I was 13 and in an auto accident. Doctors told me with proper support I cold avoid surgery and I have. It gives support plus protection and makes it stronger.

Evoir Posted 29 Jul 2012 , 11:05am

Prior to caking fulltime, I was a physiotherapist, and then had a couple kids in close succession. I entered this profession with my eyes open and a healthy respect for what overuse injuries could lead to. I wear the ugly-a$$ shoes, have ergonomic seating and correct-height stainless steel benches, plus I do the unmade-up face, short nails and hair nets thing..makes me wonder why people think this is a glamour profession! Oh yeah, must be all those TV shows and online tutorials icon_biggrin.gif

Working as a PT was stacks harder on my body than dealing with cakes, and did more damage to my joints (in Australia PTs do a heck of a lot more manual therapy...hands-on manipulation/massage/mobilisation/assisting lifts and ambulation)...you name it I did it. I actually thought caking would be a more manageable physical feat, but I can see where people fall into the trap of not pausing to stretch (especially into extension), not taking the time to do some aerobic exercise, not strengthening the core and major muscle groups, and ignoring physical abnormalities such as foot disorders (fallen arches anyone?). If you want any sort of longevity in this industry, you need to work smart and look after your body!

I think I may need to write a booklet about this one day, or do a series on my blog, but there is so much you can do yourself to PREVENT these issues occuring, which inevitably will save you big bucks in the long run getting therapy and drugs to get you through your work week.

fabray13 Posted 29 Jul 2012 , 11:34am

Delivering cakes totally stresses me to the point of not being able to catch my breath! I always say after, its a good stress! Lol probably not though!
Yesterday I had to deliver my first all fondant wedding cake. I didnt even give the weight of it a thought...until i couldnt get it out of the refrigerator! And my arms are sore and i think i somehow managed to pull a muscle in my leg!

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