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Something to help low back pain when cooking

I had read in another thread about jfood having some clogs that helped low back pain and knee issues when he cooks (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5786...). Does anyone have any info about something like that. Thanksgiving was brutal on my back. I kept having to go sit down, so making my dressing and gravy took twice as long. I would take the stuff and chop at the table and then go back and add. By the time I got to my daughters I was in so much pain I could hardly move. If there are some miracle shoes I would love to try them!

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  1. D

    Here is a link to a picture of the type jfood uses. He likes the cutouts or else your feet get a bit moist. These are not the ones that jfood uses but is just an illustration.


    There was also a thread about some cushy mats that people use. It was ont he boards within the last two weeks, you may want to look there. jfood thinks it may be under a what to buy at costco thread.

    Alleve is also a good way to prepare for a long stand-around in the kitchen.

    Hope those help

    1 Reply
    1. re: jfood

      Thanks jfood. I will look for the thread about the mats. I have seen those and wondered if they really help. The clogs look comfy.

    2. I've had serious back problems for many years. I use a Gel Pro mat in the kitchen, and if things get really bad, I open a lower cupboard door and rest a foot on the bottom shelf -- it's amazing how that little trick helps me. Give it a try.

      13 Replies
      1. re: pikawicca

        I saw that Gel Pro Mat at the Costco Business Center store. It was $99, whiich I thought was a bit pricey. But, if you need it you need it.

          1. re: monku

            My Costco has them near the lightbulbs and such for 69.99. compared to gelpro's website price of $125ish. I purchased one a few weeks ago and it is worth the cost.
            It has made a difference with my lower back pain and feet issues.

            I'm on my feet all day at work and am practically limping by the time I get home. This mat has let me get back in the kitchen and cook instead of just reheating!

            On the shoe aspect, I do wear good shoes with support - Clark's, Merrill's, etc. Just aging feet ready for retirement a few decades early...

            1. re: meatn3

              For those of you who have the gelpro mat

              1) have you had any issues with the mat curling around the edges? A lot of people on Amazon are saying that the edges curl up after about a year, creating a tripping hazard.

              2) Do you have the mat out all the time, or just when you have a marathon cooking session? I was wondering if the mat would have less tendency to curl (per 1 above) if we put it away except for "extended" cooking sessions...

              Thank you!


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I've had mine about a month. There is a thin flange that extends out about 3/8" on all sides. It is nowhere as thick as the mat. I can see where if has a slight ripple happening on one side which is close to my heating vent. Even if it curled to the fullest extent I don't think it would be a hazard. I don't anticipate this becoming an issue for me.

                  As far as leaving it out, yes I do. It is heavier than most kitchen mats, but not to the point of being difficult to move. The literature with it indicates you should roll it around the tube it came with (heavy cardboard tube) with the upper side out for storing.

                  Perhaps storing it would counter the possibility of curling. For myself, that would be too much bother. Out of sight out of mind - I know I would forget about it until my feet and back started to hurt and then it would be moot.
                  Plus my physical comfort is an issue each time I'm in the kitchen so I purchased the mat for daily use.

                  I do have a friend who is buying it to use when she is exhibiting at art shows. She will roll and store it with her show gear. I'll try to check with her down the road and see how it is holding up.

            2. re: pikawicca

              Good hint pika! I'll try that trick with the cabinet door. It has gotten to the point that I don't even try too cook anything that takes longer than a few minutes. The gel pro mat sounds interesting but more than I can afford at this point.

              1. re: danhole

                And that price is for the small one. Since I do prep and cook in 2-3 locations, I couldn't afford it.

                I have Danska closed heel clogs and they make a big difference.

                I also try to sit on a bar stool if I have a lot of slicing and dicing to do. Old age sucks :)

                1. re: c oliver

                  I have some Rockport clogs with a partial closed heel. Do you think that would work? I'm going to try them out, ut they are black suede, so I really don't want to mess them up. I don't have a bar stool, but that is an idea I'll consider.

                  1. re: danhole

                    I think clogs generally are a good idea. Try your nice ones and, if you think it helps, maybe you could pick up some Danskas on clearance. I remember that their website had "closeouts" at some time in the past.

                    PS: Did you see I fixed ham salad and am completely hooked. I made ALOT and have a few bites at least every day in addition to real meals. Mmmmm.

                      1. re: nomistone

                        And if you live anywhere near southeastern PA, Dansko has an outlet store at their factory in Jennersville.

                      2. re: c oliver

                        Well, I tried my nice ones last night. Didn't make a whole lot of dinner and wasn't on my feet that much, but my clogs have no spring or bounce to them, and they did not improve the situation. I am thinking about trying my tennis shoes, that are made for walking. They are a bit bouncy.

                        I left you a note about ham salad on the other thread.

              2. I have lumbar osteoarthritis that's really bad for somebody my age. According to my physical therapist, the best thing to minimize symptoms is to develop better posture. When you're dicing carrots or stirring a sauce, it's natural to hunch forward, putting extra load on the low back.

                It's hard - especially at first - to keep shoulders back, head back, butt in, and posture straight. Especially if the work surface is too low. Practice makes it easier, as do exercises that strengthen the core muscles - abs and low back - and that strengthen the upper back and keep the shoulders from rolling forward.

                Good ergonomics help, too. The gel mats are great. Good shoes are a must. (Clogs? Bah. Doc Martens.) And if possible, get those work surfaces to the right height for you - if your counters are a little too low, a thick cutting board can make all the difference in the world.

                34 Replies
                1. re: alanbarnes

                  When we remodeled a few years ago, I had the counters raised 3". I do most of my prep on a 2"-thick Boos board. It all helps.

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    We (well, actually Bob) put in Ikea cabinets when we did a major remodel a few years ago. We were able to adjust the height and got them higher. Definitely helps.

                    Alan, if you wear THOSE shoes when cooking, you are SO uninvited to come here for a visit. They are GROSS :) Have you NO pride, man? Do your wife and daughters leave the house (or the county) when you put those on????

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Hey, both my daughters **want** those boots. But they agree that I'm too old to pull off that kind of fashion statement. Fortunately Docs are available in more subdued styles that are equally comfy and supportive when cooking or doing any other standing-oriented activity.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        Fine for 12 and 15 y.o.'s - not for old farts. I love my Danskas and they've also been great when we just have an inch or so of snow. They're waterproof and the clog sole lifts me up so I'm not getting wet feet. I swore when I got them that they were for the kitchen only and I wouldn't be caught dead outside the house in them. But never say never.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          The little jfoods (20 and 24) have nicknamed all of jfood's shoes that are not old-guy daddy-approved. None of thos names are PC though.

                      2. re: pikawicca

                        We also raised the height of our counters when we remodeled.

                        1. re: lgss

                          Snap. Counter heights were set when people were weer. Ikea had legs in three different heights

                          1. re: Paulustrious

                            What does "weer" mean? My house is about 50+ years old. Still have the original counters.

                              1. re: danhole

                                'Tis a real word, means smaller.

                                And the counter heights were 'fixed' over 100 years before that.

                                (Edit:: just read igss - same reply :-. Sounds better when said with a Scots accent...

                                Aye, in them days the folks were a touch weer. And some were a touch wierd, and others weer touched.

                        2. re: alanbarnes

                          I'm not very tall, so I think the height of my work surface is fine for me, and I really do have good posture! Now, Doc Marten's? Are they recommended for this type of thing? I always jsut thought of them as a sort of yuppie thing. Don't really know anything about them.

                          1. re: danhole

                            A yuppie thing? Sid Vicious is rolling in his grave.

                            Before they became part of the punk rock uniform, Docs were favored by postmen, policemen, and others who spent their days afoot because the air-cushioned "bouncing soles" are easy on the feet and back.

                            1. re: danhole

                              Yes, higher surfaces are often part of the problem for we "not very tall" types. I read that our counters should be 5" or 6" (forget which), below our bended elbow. Are yours in that ballpark at least?

                              1. re: cinnamon girl

                                cinnamon girl,

                                I have about 3 inches from bended elbow to counter top. Maybe I should stand on a platform, or something along those lines. Funny how people are talking about raising the counters and I need to lower mine! Or grow a few inches, which isn't going to happen.

                                1. re: danhole

                                  You forced me to walk into my kitchen and estimate distance. I'd say with your parameters, I'm 3-4" from my counter top.

                                  1. re: danhole

                                    I use a BOSU:


                                    Stand on top and knead bread, etc. Perfect and I get in core/balance training, too.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Very interesting Chowser! Do you have to balance while you are on it, or can you just stand on it. I have a hard time with balance. I can lose my balance practically standing still!

                                      1. re: danhole

                                        Hmmm, when people start, they have to balance but you get used to it and now it's like standing on a flat surface for me (i jump and do 360 turns on it, not while cooking!)--but that's the point when you come down to it. Balance is so important, especially as we get older and start losing it. It's kind of a squishy surface but it's easier next to the counter because you can lean on the counter some, if you want.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          Unfortunately my balance issues aren't age related - I'm really not that old! It is due to uneven leg lengths. Never had balance in the first place. Might be good practice, though. Wish I could try one out for a week and then decide!

                                          1. re: danhole

                                            My son has legs of different lengths, and I think the BOSU might do you a world of good. I started using it after surgery on a foot really messed up my balance. It helps a lot, although I'm not going to be doing any serious knife work while perched atop one.

                                            1. re: danhole

                                              I had polio as a child and have one shorter leg as well as several serious back injuries and surgery.. Nothing has worked 100% and there are days when I'm on the floor and that's that.

                                              However, many helpful trucs have emerged over the years. Shoes with support and bounce are essential, so is moving and re-distributing your weight while standing. Whoever suggested putting your foot up on a cabinet drawer is correct, just be sure to change elevated legs often. I make it a point to move around every couple of minutes, doing some gentle stretching each time. I stand on Oriental rugs in the kitchen (laid over wood floors) and find them helpful. Ikea has bargains in their rugs. Last weekend, I was on my feet at someone's home with stone floors and I knew the difference within 30 minutes. Ouch.

                                              Breaking up chores into 20-30 minute segments and walking around for a bit works well for me, as does changing my tasks. Instead of standing in a single spot for 30 minutes, I'll do some vegetable prep, then move over to knead dough or set the table, returning to the prep work after walking around. This is not the most efficient way to cook but it has helped me be able to spend more time in the kitchen.

                                              This has been going on since I was a child and will never be completely resolved. It is better when I pay attention to all the possibile aids and cut myself some slack. Until stevedore back transplants become available, I'll limp along as best I can.

                                              1. re: danhole

                                                danhole, for what it's worth, I've been to several doctors over the years for back problems, and many have pointed out that one leg is shorter than the other, including PM&R doctors, physical therapists and even an acupuncture guy. A couple of months ago at the recommendation of a friend, I went to a DO (doctor of osteopath) and he observed the same thing. But after a detailed exam, discerned that one hip is rotated slightly forward,which is what's causing the leg to be shorter. I have only been to his office for adjustments 3 times and the amount of pain I've been in regularly for YEARS has gone from a 8-9 daily to a 2-3. The difference in leg height is now nearly imperceptible. Unless it's caused by something quite certain, such as a surgery or illness like polio someone else mentioned, you might consider going to see a DO to see if there's something they might find actually out of alignment that might improve with adjustment/correction.

                                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                                  I don't really want to go into my medical history with back pain, but I have had it a very long time. Usually it is my upper back and neck. Only recently my lower back has been hurting, as well as upper. I will check into the DO, but is that like a chiropractor? I have a congenital defect that my excellent chiropractor could not really help me with. Thanks for the hint though.

                                                  Today I wore my Easy Spirit walking shoes hoping that would help, but didn't do a darn bit of good! Gotta keep trying things! Problem with the gel pro mat is I can't take it to the grocery store! And even that hurts my lower back. I do think it is going to be in the shoes and doing some exercises.

                                                  1. re: danhole

                                                    A DO is different than a chiro. Better IMO. I too have suffered literally for years, at least 10. It's worth a try.

                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                      You're correct. DO's have training and licensing privileges very like MDs. Totally different from a chiropractor.

                                            2. re: danhole

                                              Oddly enough, it's harder to keep your balance when standing still. Ask anyone who's drunk.

                                          2. re: danhole

                                            DH: If you find a way to grow a few inches please let me know. Maybe that is part of your problem though. Do you find it easier working at a table? (One day I put a bowl in the sink when I was whisking something and that was instant relief. And the splatters were contained.) But yes, I think some kind of a platform would be good for the likes of us. I bought some Birks several yrs ago that have very thick soles, which I never wear outside. Sometimes they help. The soles are almost 2" high. In other words, anything that raises me or lowers my work surface.

                                            1. re: cinnamon girl

                                              Birkenstock makes massage sandals (which I wear all summer for work and when outside). Some love them some hate them. Anyone who tries them needs to very gradually increase the time started at only a few minutes per day. I bought mine over 5 years ago and had them resoled last spring. I have another older pair which is no longer available, will probably have them resoled as well. http://www.birkenstockexpress.com/Pro...

                                      2. re: alanbarnes

                                        You wear Doc Martens when you COOK???? Man, I love you!

                                        1. re: nofunlatte

                                          So do I. They're the only shoes I wear, unless I'm going to a wedding or something.

                                        2. re: alanbarnes

                                          I highly recommend strengthening the lower back, too, which in turn helps with posture. Right now, it might be just standing too long cooking that bothers the back but as we all get older, it starts creeping into other aspects, too. Good shoes, mats, etc. treat the symptom but not the underlying problem. Core work--too often overlooked.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            Hula hooping is the easiest and most pain free way to do this and its fun.

                                            1. re: just_M

                                              It looks like fun too. Do you go to classes, or did you just get a dvd, or do you make it up as you go along, or . . . ?

                                              1. re: cinnamon girl

                                                We make it up as we go. Usually hooping in one direction for one song or commercial and then hoop in the other direction for the next. My husband is the one that started hooping when his tai chi instructor said it would help him with the rotations in form and keeping his hips tucked. It did that and more. My husband also walks/paces while hooping, using a weighted hoop he made. I find the weighted hoop is much easier to use and I lost an inch off my waist the first month just goofing off.

                                        3. There are also some floor mats that may help.

                                          1. I swear by my Dansko shoes. When I was a bank teller, I could stand all day without pain. On days when I didn't wear them, I could tell a huge difference. I'd go home barely able to move. They're seriously the best shoe I've ever owned. I can wear them on an all day shopping trip, my feet don't hurt, my back doesn't hurt, I'm not exhausted from pain. I love them!!!!!


                                            You could try the anti-fatigue mats also. Sounds kinda wierd, but you can go to Sally Beauty Supply and order them - just be sure to get one w/o the chair cutout. These are what hairdressers stand on all day.


                                            You could do a google search for anti-fatigue mats also.

                                            To me, the shoes would be the best bet if you tend to move around alot in the kitchen, unless you have the money to buy mats for different parts of your kitchen.

                                            Good luck!

                                            1. Get a Gel Pro mat and kiss your back pain good-bye, Costco has them at a steal.

                                              1. My experience supports the Dansko recommendations - I live near a Dansko outlet and whenever I am there it is jammed with people who are on their feet alot - teachers, nurses, doctors and restaurant people. they all seem very pleased with the clogs.
                                                One thing I can't understand is why people put slate or tile floors in their kitchens. The floors may look nice but they must be torture on the back.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Fiona

                                                  I've had the same thought re kitchen flooring. I think it's a) they're not cooks or b) they didn't think about it before hand or c) they went for form over function. Our Oregon house has tile through almost the entire house but I went with a vinyl in the kitchen that almost indistinguishable from a tile but way easier on the body. AND much more forgiving if/when something breakable is dropped.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    We opted for marmoleum tiles when we remodeled.

                                                  2. re: Fiona

                                                    Cork floors used to be very popular in Europe for kitchens. I don't know if it's still popular, or what the enviro effect would be, but I can imagine it would be easy on the body too.

                                                  3. I was inspired by this thread to go out and buy a pair of Dansko clogs this morning. they are very strange and bouncy, will take some getting used to. I'm cooking in them all afternoon, so we'll see how it goes.

                                                    9 Replies
                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                      it does take a few tries to get used to them

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        Yes, even in my closed heels ones, I'm not tempted to move too fast. But I'm not terribly graceful.

                                                        Just spent a couple of hours in the kitchen in my new Pumas and I'm pretty achey now. Will switch to my Danskos after lunch.

                                                        While I like the idea of the Gel Pro mats, I would need two or three depending on size. The Costco ones are the small ones. I have the area at my sink, my major prep area and then the stove with counters on each side. It's far less money to have one pair of shoes than three mats. I've also wondered about keeping them clean (and I'm not Nelly Neat by a long shot). They all seem to have various textures on them. The rugs that I have in the kitchen get filthy but I can throw them in the wash.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          The mat I got wipes clean very easily - and I am a messy cook! The texture looks deeper than it really is. Mine appears to be the Cordoba pattern:
                                                          I was concerned flour would become embedded, but it cleans up well!

                                                          1. re: meatn3

                                                            I agree. Mine sweeps off easily, and once in a while it goes out on the deck for a hosing down.

                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                              The only concern I would have would be toe nails on big dogs. I'd love to hear from people with dogs and the mat. The warranty warned against stiletto heels, hence my thought about big dogs.

                                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                                My 50-pound Belgian Sheepdog stands on it frequently and has never left a mark.

                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                  Thanks - good to know! We are thinking of adding a big dog to the mix.

                                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                                    My last gel mat observation:

                                                                    Just had several raw eggs roll off the counter and land on the mat - no breakage whatsoever!

                                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                                      Holy cow. THAT'S impressive. Now if I could just cover my whole floor with it.

                                                    2. Backless clogs or crocs

                                                      1. MBT shoes. They're ugly (well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in my eyes, they're UGLY). But I believe they will help you. They're a bit reminiscent of the "special" shoes Kramer wore in Seinfeld when he was mistaken for a developmentally delayed person.

                                                        It took me quite some time before I got the courage to buy them because of vanity, and this is another reminder that I'm getting older. Every time I saw somebody on the street with them, I questioned them. They were all really enthusiastic -- many got them because of back pain and said it helped them a great deal. They put your body in proper alignment and take the pressure off of your back and knees.

                                                        My issue is really not back and knee pain, but ankle issues, and I use these shoes to strengthen my ankle muscles. But if I walk around for an entire day (we're talking at least 6 miles) or am on my feet a lot, I do experience some lower back soreness by the end of the day. When I wear my MBTs, I don't have the soreness. And the other day, after a vigorous workout, I had soreness in my lower back and wasn't walking normally. I had to go out and run errands and decided to wear my MBT shoes. Within minutes of wearing them, the soreness started to dissipate.

                                                        There are a lot of new shoes that look similar to MBT that are being marketed in recent times. They're being more marketed for their fitness aspects (helps to tone your legs as you walk) as opposed to be marketed for helping people with neck/back/knee pain. I haven't tried those shoes, but I've read reports that they're not as good. I would go with the original MBT shoes. And if your main concern is back pain, I would recommend the original soles as opposed to the newer "sleeker" soles as I feel the original ones work better (I've got both). I've recommended these shoes to quite a few of my patients and they've all been pretty happy with the results.

                                                        These shoes are on the pricey side. But one of my patients pointed out this website that sells some of them on sale. I got a pair that originally costs $250 for $130.


                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                          In 1975 vthey were called Earth Shoes and very comfortable.

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            How fascinating! Didn't know they were around for that long. I still loathe wearing them (unless I'm wearing bootleg jeans which kind of hide them), but DH keeps trying to convince me that I'll start a trend. He's so sweet by saying anything so I'll wear these shoes and be more comfortable.

                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              Earth Shoes are a little different: their heels are lower than the ball of the foot, where the MBT has a thick sole curved on its underside. Earth Shoes have been reincarnated in somwhat less-70s styles: http://www.earthfootwear.com/

                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                Tihs is true; my daughter sometimes wears Earth Shoes, and they are not as dorky looking as they were back in the day. I still find them impossible to wear, however, and they have almost no arch support. Can't think they'd be suitable for long stretches in the kitchen.

                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                  My husband had a pair back in '75, before we got married, and I remember thinking they looked backwards. That was because of the heel being lower. With his long hair and weird Earth Shoes, i thought he was a crazy hippie. Now I wish we still had those darn shoes!

                                                                  1. re: danhole


                                                                    you have received lots of information thus far and most that I have read are good advice. When I was younger, I used to run nightclubs and tend bar in very hectic places. At the time I was purchasing mostly slip-on moccasin type welt shoe lasts from the likes of Bally's Footwear. Like yourself, I experienced a lot of lower backpain when working.....luckily, one of my father's friends was a podiatrist, and I was able to receive some advice from him on my struggles. He told me it to trash the shoes that did not lace up and forget about fashion. He told me to purchase a work shoe that had a minimum six eyelets that I could lace up tightly. The shoes in conjunction with support hose that came up over the calf would alleviate my fatigue problems......which it absolutely did immediately. My back, legs and feet were much better and although I still got tired by the end of the shift....I was no longer in pain.

                                                            2. A week later, I've been wearing the clogs for a little over an hour while cooking, and I have to say, they help, especially while standing on a gel mat. A word of caution, however: There is a pull on the hamstrings, so I do some stretches mid-cooking.

                                                              1. I appreciate all of the advice from everyone. So far I just can't afford to spend much so I will try some of the cheaper/free alternatives first, but I am marking this as a favorite and when I have the money I have much to choose from.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: danhole

                                                                  Last year I couldn't get though cooking for the holidays without a couple breaks and my back was spent when I was done. It made it tough to even get though the parties. I made a couple changes in lifestyle and what I wore during cooking and it made a big difference. I took up yoga, which I have found to be very energizing and really helps a lot with movement. I made sure that I wore good socks and sneakers when cookiing rather than my comfy slippers and I also tried to be mindful of my posture. I think all of these things made a huge difference in how I felt both during and after dinner preparation. On Thanksgiving I was helping with the dishes after cooking and I still felt great when I got home that evening.

                                                                2. There are also massage insoles available. It may also be helpful to establish a daily yoga/stretching routine.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: lgss

                                                                    The most relief I've found for my lower back pain (in addition to wearing good shoes) is to consciously remember to tip my pelvis forward as I stand. A cheap and easy solution. All I have to do is remember to do it, and (hopefully) develop it into a habit (I'm partway there).

                                                                    Also helpful when shopping, in museums, etc. Oddly, backaches are not a problem when hiking, where the movement is more constant and forward.

                                                                    1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                                      My husband has also noticed that he is more likely to develop some lower back pain when he or we walk slower than our natural pace for whatever reason.

                                                                  2. I've been wearing the Dansko clogs more and more in the kitchen. I spent all day cooking today, wearing the clogs, standing on the mat, tucking the pelvis, and I feel pretty darned good. I think all of these tips are helpful. I also have a good kitchen counter stool with excellent back support, where I sit for chores that can be done seated. Switching back and forth between standing and sitting is good.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                      Now that it's winter my Danskos came out of the closet and are there for me. I also remind myself to sit on the kitchen stool and train myself to do tasks that way. I'm a real barefoot, sock-clad gal, so remembering to put on shoes when in the kitchen takes discipline. But it pays dividends.

                                                                    2. Acorn slippers with memory foam.... Awesome for my back and my plantar fascitis (sp?)!

                                                                      1. I have found that the best thing to combat lower back pain is generous amounts of vodka, bourbon or gin. Apply generously as needed. Also helps with creative inspiration.

                                                                        1. I wear Crocs. I won't where them anywhere else, but the difference when I'm cooking is unbelievable. I can't tell you how amazing they have been. I can literally cook all day and neither my feet nor back get tired. I made cookies from 6-10pm yesterday and 11am-8pm today and could have kept going without a problem. They are almost too good to be true.