9-tips-for-avoiding-holiday-back-pain

When we think about the holidays, we tend to think about sumptuous meals, glittering decorations and family squabbles. What we rarely think about is how those same rituals can result in holiday back pain.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, around 250 injuries occur each day during the holiday season — and around 10 percent of them involve back strains.

Here is a list of ways back strains happen over the holidays, and how to avoid them:

1 – SHOVELING SNOW

Exaggerated twisting by heaving snow over your shoulder can be damaging to the spine; and lifting heavy loads can result in pinched nerves, low back injuries — even piriformis syndrome.

HOW TO AVOID IT

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery suggests warming up your muscles and hydrating before snow shoveling; and when transplanting the snow, avoid throwing it over your shoulder or to the side since those motions can put undue stress on your back.

2 – DECORATING

Close to 18,000 people were treated in emergency departments for holiday-decorating-related falls according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Adding to those numbers are stress injuries to the neck resulting from reaching up for heavy, stored decoration boxes, or twisting injuries that happen while installing holiday lights.

HOW TO AVOID IT

Work together with family members to decorate so that you are not overtaxing your muscles and, when possible, use support devices such as step stools to avoid over-stretching your back.

3 – STRESSING

Braving crowds, traffic and in-laws are just a few sources of holiday stress.

HOW TO AVOID IT

If you find that your muscles are tensing up in response to everything take a moment or two and just breathe. It is a great way to slow down, get some perspective, and stem the tide of stress hormones. Even better: Try these tips for activating the relaxation response.

4 – FALLING

With inclement weather comes the risk of falls on slippery ice or water puddles. Serious falls can — at the least — jar the back muscles and, at worst, damage the spine.

HOW TO AVOID IT

The AAOS suggests trying to fall on your side or buttocks and when hitting the ground, attempting to roll over naturally. These actions, along with ensuring your footwear is appropriate for the weather, may help to protect against serious spine injury.

5 – HEAVING HEAVY LOADS

Holidays seem to be all about lugging heavy loads — whether it’s bags from the shopping mall or loads of heavy luggage trailing you at every holiday stop.

HOW TO AVOID IT

Of course, holding onto a heavy bag is an easy way to destabilize your spine and overtax the muscles compensating for all that weight you’re carrying. Try distributing your heavy load from one bag to at least two. If you’re shopping make intermittent trips to store bags in the trunk of the car, and if you’re traveling be sure to use rolling bags.

6 – ABANDONING EXERCISE ROUTINE

It only takes a few days of traveling to completely derail your exercise routine. When you add holiday gluttony to the mix, you’ve got a recipe for total inertia. The bad news is that adding weight to your frame can spell worse back pain.

HOW TO AVOID IT

But the good news is figuring out creative ways to move here and there often leads to even more movement. We have tips for incorporating activity into your holiday routine. If you’re pressed for time, this yoga routine only takes 15 minutes.

7 – SLOUCHING

Spending hours on end with family vegging out on football and movies is one of the best parts of the holidays — and one of the worst things for your back. Sitting for hours at a time not only keeps muscles tight, it can lead to slouching.

HOW TO AVOID IT

The same advice we give to people who need breaks at work applies here. Get up as often as you can to keep from  sitting for too long, and slouching.

8 – NOT SLEEPING

For many of us, the holidays are about braving long drives to one family member’s house, only to dart to another one, and another one. Long travel days and lots of activities can result in a whole lot of sleep debt. What few people know is that losing sleep can lead to, or exacerbate, back pain.

HOW TO AVOID IT

If possible, break up travel into manageable days, and throughout the holidays try cutting down on caffeine and alcohol as they can interrupt sleep. And those tips we already covered to reduce stress? Try those, since stress can interrupt sleep in a big way.

9 – OVEREATING

Eating too much may not sound remotely related to back pain, but extra weight can exert powerful pressure on the spine. An Oklahoma State University primer on back safety suggests 25 pounds of extra bodyweight can put up to an extra 250 pounds of pressure on the back every time you bend over.

HOW TO AVOID IT

Try these tips for keeping moving and maintaining a healthy weight during the holiday season.

Got extraordinary post-holiday back pain issues? Contact us online or give us a call at 323-319-2897 and we will be happy to help.