Taking Care of my Body while Bartending

Many years ago, I decided to get a part-time bartending job at a local brewery.

I was looking to purchase my first home here in Asheville and like many Ashevillians know, the struggle is real. It’s expensive to live here! So I figured the extra income would be helpful. Little did I know how difficult and taxing my little part-time bartending job would be on my body.

Luckily, the knowledge I have gained over the past 6 years at my full time job as a treating therapist here at Physio PT and Wellness helped me learn how to correct my movement, and I was able to get first-hand experience on how to better help my patients that are in the same boat.

I’m on my feet a lot! By day, in my physical therapy job and by night/weekend as I bartend at a brewery. Both jobs take a considerable amount of physical energy, and if I’m not careful, I can end up feeling pretty stiff and sore after a long week.

Here are a few helpful tips if you work in any serving position!  

Supportive Shoes or Inserts

One of the easiest but most beneficial ways to take care of my body is by wearing supportive shoes when I work. This helps to take the load off of my feet, knees, hips, and low back.

I’m personally a big fan of both Brooks and Keens for every day foot wear, but some folks find they benefit a lot from getting extra support. It can be helpful to add a Dr. Scholl’s or Superfeet insert  for an added level of comfort and foundation.

Compression socks also help greatly! Since I’m always behind the bar, I care less about the fashionable aspect of my footwear and more that they provide the comfort and support I need for those long hours on my feet.

Maintaining Good Posture (even during down time)

It goes without saying that a good brewery comes with a pretty laid back vibe. Because of that, I often find myself standing slouched over to clean something, or with my weight distributed unevenly between feet as I’m leaning on the bar talking to patrons. Maintaining mindfulness throughout the day about proper posture is key to limiting pain and soreness.

It took me quite a long time to learn how to be aware of my posture and to remember to correct it. However, once I did – everything else started to improve with it.

A big part of correcting my slouchy posture was strengthening my core and doing “opposite actions”.

For example, when I would begin to feel that old familiar soreness in my low back, rather than bending forward to touch my toes which felt more comfortable, I would instead place my hands on the small of low back, and bend backwards. This provides a very quick sense of relief and allows me to go about my evening with less pain.

Taking Sit and Stretch Breaks

It’s important to me to take a few minutes every hour or so and get in a good stretch and take a quick break to sit (even if it’s just for 5 minutes to fold bar towels).

Taking time to relax can be hard on busy nights, but as soon as I am able, I make it a point to take a few minutes to get off my feet, even if it means forcing myself to do so.

Proper Lifting and Carrying Techniques

If you have never been a bartender or served tables, you might be surprised to learn just how much heavy lifting is actually involved in the field. I am frequently lifting full racks of glasses, boxes of t-shirts, full and empty kegs, and liquor and beer cases.

Most people are aware of the benefits of lifting from the knees, but in the midst of the Saturday night rush, I have definitely been guilty of trying to lift a keg without great form, only to regret it later.

Mindfulness to keep the core engaged prior to and during a lift or carry is important as well is lifting from your knees.

Always bring the item that you’re carrying as close to the body as possible, this will help decrease the amount of strain.   

Whether I am working as a physical therapy assistant, serving at the bar, or even just playing with the dog, I always try to be mindful of healthy body mechanics. I try to think about it as, is this movement helpful or harmful for me?

 

Rachel Suggs, Physical Therapist Assistant
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