I've got joint pain from scooping ice cream. Are there exercises I can do to minimize the discomfort?
May 6, 2007 5:18 PM   Subscribe

I started working in an ice cream store and I'm getting some odd aches and pains. Are there stretches or exercises I can do to minimize them?

I recently started work in a small ice cream store. Smoothies, shakes, espresso and ice cream, no big deal. But the ice cream is kept pretty hard and we're pretty solidly busy between noon and midnight, so I've been doing a lot of scooping. After a few days of this kind of work, I start to get fairly severe pains in my wrist, finger joints, etc.

It's not entirely unexpected and a day or two off work clears it up. But I rarely have more than a day off and my shifts are typically between 4 and 8 hours. Are there exercises or stretches I can do to minimize the pain and/or damage I may be doing? Someone suggested Asprin/Aleve, but I'm worried that I'd only be shutting up my body's warning system and not addressing the problem
posted by GilloD to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
Maybe invest in a wrist brace and an elbow brace? It will take some of the pressure off those joints and give you increased leverage. Fingers... not sure unless you can wear gloves which provide better grip so you don't have to squeeze so hard.

Also... what are the odds of getting a different scoop. OXO makes ergonomic scoops of many kinds, and they are readily available.

Another key is to be aware of how much pressure you are using, even early in the day. When you feel ok, you may be working yourself harder than you should, then it catches up with you.
posted by The Deej at 5:38 PM on May 6, 2007

I would think stretches are a good idea, though I don't have the knowledge to point you towards the correct ones. It does occur to me, though, that dipping the scoop in very hot water would help get it through the ice cream. Also, while naproxen (Aleve) or another anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen, etc.) could potentially help relieve injury, I'd talk to a doctor about the pros and cons before going ahead with it.
posted by bassjump at 5:50 PM on May 6, 2007

Response by poster: Part of the problem is that I don't have healthcare, nor can I afford healthcare, so a doctor's advice is kind of out the window.
posted by GilloD at 5:59 PM on May 6, 2007

Even without health care, you can call Ask-a-Nurse or a similar program in your area to get some general advice by phone.

I take Aleve for pain in my elbow. I don't know if it's that effective or not. But according to my doctor, it's preferable to Ibuprofen because it lasts 12 hours, and isn't as likely to cause stomach problems.

Also, if it's one of a chain of stores, you may have access to their industrial hygienist, or some materials provided by such a person, which addresses your issue.
posted by The Deej at 6:12 PM on May 6, 2007

One thing you should definitely do is alternate between arms when you're scooping--or, as we called it among my friends, "being biscooptual." In addition to removing some of the stress, it'll keep one arm from getting bigger than the other.

I'll second the wrist brace. I had some knee trouble when I used to caddy (hence name), and bought a cheap, $15 knee brace at CVS. Didn't have any problems after that. Granted, in this case, you might have trouble keeping it clean, but it'd be worth it.
posted by thecaddy at 7:07 PM on May 6, 2007

When I scooped at Baskin-Robbins, we were told that if we had wrist problems we could purchase cheapo wrist braces at the drug store and wear them. I bought a few and just threw them in the laundry with my uniform. I also switched hands fairly consistently. One thing that will help with repetitve motion pain is stretching the muscle or joint in the opposite direction, and holding it. So, if your pain seems to stem from scooping inwards, try stretching outwards. This is purely anecdotal, since I'm not a doctor, but that's always helped me when I seem to have repetitive motion pain. Good luck!
posted by MeetMegan at 7:45 PM on May 6, 2007

Keep the scoops in hot water. Scoop with the ice cream at waist level. Take your time while scooping. Take a hot bath when you get home.
posted by longsleeves at 8:00 PM on May 6, 2007

I worked in an ice cream shop when I was in school and here is my advice: when you are scooping the ice cream try to minimize the bending at the wrist.

Hold the scoop at the surface of the ice cream with your arm straight. Relax your shoulder and neck. Dig into the ice cream and bring it toward you with your body weight as leverage. Your forearm and your lat should be the primary muscles used.

It's kind of like playing tennis. You're not waggling your racket around with your wrist. You are holding it steady and propelling it with your whole body.

I also highly recommend learning how to use your non-dominant hand.
posted by Soda-Da at 9:33 PM on May 6, 2007

If your store is keeping the ice cream hard, and isn't using glycol-filled scoops, find out why not.
posted by flabdablet at 6:02 AM on May 7, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips, guys.

Flab- As for why not, well. The folks who run are nice and lovely, but they're business people well before they're good owners. We, the employees, ended up doing food cost for them when they couldn't figure out why they were losing money. They figured they could just open a chain and coast on the money.

As for keeping the IC at waist level, the tubs are in a freezer and you sort of have to bend over and lean into the cabinet to get to it. I'll be sure to post back in a week or two and let you know what worked!
posted by GilloD at 1:28 PM on May 7, 2007

Then go and buy your own antifreeze scoop when you're out shopping for a wrist brace, and start making aggrieved noises about duty of care to provide a workplace which is free from unnecessary risks to employee health and safety, and how ten dollar scoops beat thousand dollar medical bills.
posted by flabdablet at 8:38 PM on May 7, 2007

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