Getting ready for Christmas is a great opportunity to have fun and spend quality time with your friends and family, but some of the festive activities can be a real pain in your back. Getting all the shopping done in time, decorating, cooking, shoveling, or cleaning for the holidays could result in your back sustaining all sorts of strain or even giving out on you right before the Christmas dinner.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 15,000 people sustain some sort of holiday-decorating injury every year, with almost 250 people a day getting injured during the holiday season, a number that has been rising steadily over the past four years. To help you ward off potential back injuries this holiday season, we’ve listed the activities that are most likely to give you back pain, along with tips on how to minimize the risk of injury.
Shopping for Gifts
Lugging around shopping bags that are too heavy or too large can result in significant injuries to the shoulder, neck, and lower back. Most common injuries are strains and sprains, which are extremely painful and can sometimes lead to permanent damage.
- Use smaller bags instead of one heavy bag to distribute the weight on your body.
- Ask for assistance in reaching items on high shelves or lifting heavier items.
- Make frequent trips to your car to drop off purchases instead of lugging them around from store to store.
- Dress accordingly for the task ahead of you: wear sturdy, comfortable shoes to prevent pain in your heel, ankle, knee, or leg.
Decking the Halls
Falls make up 12 percent of seasonal emergency room visits, of which almost half are related to falls from ladders. While you may think you already know how to use a ladder safely to hang up Christmas lights and decorations, it always pays to be extra careful, especially in adverse weather conditions.
- Select the right ladder for the job. Choose a lightweight ladder if you’re planning to drag it through the house and outside, and make sure it has slip-resistant feet.
- Maintain your body centered on the ladder and maintain balance to reduce the pressure on your spine.
- Ask a member of your family to hold the bottom of the ladder, especially if you are decorating high places.
- Don’t allow more than one person on a ladder at a time.
- Use a ladder or a stepladder even when you are decorating the tree to prevent overextending your neck or twisting a muscle out of place.
Snow shoveling remains one of the most frequent causes of back injuries during the winter season. Excessive or incorrect shoveling may cause injuries that are not limited to the musculoskeletal system, such as low-back strain or a herniated disc, but also fractures and heart problems. Here are the basics of shoveling snow the right way:
- Warm up beforehand. Snow shoveling can be compared with a weight-lifting session, so take some time to stretch and prepare your body for this strenuous activity.
- Choose the right shovel. In order to keep your back straight and reduce the stress on your spine, you should use an ergonomic shovel, preferably made of a lightweight material such as plastic, and with smaller blade, so that the load will weigh less.
- Lift properly. If you must lift the snow, make sure to lift with your legs instead of bending at the waist. Squat with your legs apart while keeping your knees bent and your back straight. It’s also important to pace yourself: shovel an inch or two of snow at a time, and take regular breaks to rest.
Cleaning and Other Chores
Bending, reaching, and twisting your body while getting the house cleaned before or after the holidays is a strenuous activity that can wreak havoc on your back. Back strain and pain are most likely to result from using a vacuum, mopping the floors, or doing the dishes, but you can also end up with a slipped disc if you’re not careful.
- Think of chores as a workout session: warm up beforehand, use proper form to lift heavy objects, and take regular breaks to catch your breath.
- Use all the extra help you can get. You can easily cut down on back strain while cleaning by using telescoping arms or handle extenders for cleaning tools and accessories.
- Keep a good posture. Whether you’re vacuuming or doing the dishes, always try to keep your back upright to minimize sustained bending of the waist.
What to Do if an Injury Does Happen
If you do experience back pain that is not alleviated by rest or painkillers, a visit to your local chiropractic clinic can put you back on your feet in no time. Aside from gentle spinal manipulation to the affected areas, your therapist can also provide postural education and ergonomic training, teaching you how to walk, sit, and stand to limit back strain.
Those for whom the holidays are a source of stress and anxiety can greatly benefit from acupuncture and stress management therapies. Without any pain or side effects, your chiropractor can help relieve physical and mental stresses and release the tension you’ve accumulated during the stressful holidays. Having your pain or injuries addressed by a specialized chiropractor will ensure that they do not lead to chronic pain later on.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.