It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but the winter holidays are also a time when back pain frequently strikes. There are plenty of reasons why this can happen, and most of them have to do with additional strain you’re putting on yourself. The holidays (and the pre-holiday shopping, cooking, celebrating decorating and travel) are something that we may look forward to all year, but they also put tremendous stress on the body.
During this time of year, we spend far more time standing, walking, reaching, bending and lifting. All of those are a recipe for aches and pains, especially if you live a more sedentary lifestyle during the rest of the year. If this level of new activity sounds familiar and you’re experiencing more aches and pains, then your problem can be addressed by taking a few precautionary measures as outlined below.
- If you’re standing at a lot of holiday parties (or in check-out lines at stores), don’t keep your feet close to one another. By establishing a wider base of support (with your feet farther apart) you distribute your weight in a more stable way and keep your spine aligned. You can also ease stress on your back by shifting back and forth between your two feet instead of standing flatfooted.
- If you are a woman, wearing flat shoes will definitely ease your discomfort, but if you just have to wear high heels, remember to keep a little bend in your knees instead of locking them. Locking your knees causes an unnatural arch in your spine.
- If you are doing a lot of holiday cooking, remember to wear shoes with good support while doing so. It may be tempting to shuffle around the kitchen in your slippers, but you’ll feel it in your legs and back later. Also, keep your tools and the food you’re working with closer to the edge of the counter instead of having to bend forward to reach them, and when taking heavy items out of the oven, pull the oven shelf out first so that you don’t have to bend and reach at the same time.
- If you have the opportunity, take a few minutes to sit down every once in a while. Taking a break on a regular basis avoids that “oh my gosh it feels so good to sit down that I can’t get back up” sensation that comes at the end of a long day.
- When decorating, do not stand on unstable surfaces. Lift boxes of decorations by using our leg muscles rather than your back muscles, and carry the box close to your body. Do not try to carry too much at once. Multiple small loads are better for your back then ‘saving a trip’ by carrying something that’s too heavy for you. When you’re decorating, don’t put the box on the ground. Set up a table to hold the decorations so that you don’t have to keep bending down. Likewise, if decorating down low, sit on a chair or on the ground and when decorating something that’s high, use a ladder to cut own on reaching.
Unfortunately, not all back and neck pain issues are holiday related. If your back or neck are a constant source of discomfort and you’re finding yourself suffering from tingling in your extremities, shooting pains, or pain that won’t let you sleep, then holiday strain is probably not your problem. Our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey can help you find the relief you need.