Knocking, tamping, slapping the porta filter off the machine, steaming milk, stirring drinks, and carrying drinks takes a toll on your forearms. That toll is Barista's Elbow (or Barista's Wrist)
Barista's Elbow is an over-use injury of the wrist extensors and elbow flexors caused by the very specific movements required to make a good coffee.
Although it is a repetitive strain injury (RSI), there are ways to prevent Barista's Elbow without having to give up your job. These are my 3 tips to prevent Barista's Elbow:
1. Slow Down
Make slow, deliberate movements when you're making coffee. When you slow down, you gain more strength from your bodyweight, and you can rely less on your forearm muscles. It will feel a bit "wrong" at first, but once you learn how to do it, you'll be able to make coffees all day pain-free.
Treat coffee making like a sport, and warm-up your forearms before you start work. Flex and extend your fingers and wrists; and gently run through all of the movements that you do to make a coffee.
3. Regular Maintenance
Stretch and release your forearm muscles regularly through your shift, and regularly between shifts. Self massage, and using a spiky ball can be great, if you can have a professional release your forearms every week or so, that's even better.
I am hosting a free workshop on Barista's Elbow at SYSSM on Friday 19th August. If you'd like more information on Barista's Elbow, you should come to that. RSVP to secure your spot by calling (03) 9826 2122.
Dr Mitch Clark