With nearly 65 million Americans reporting a recent incident of back pain and 16 million adults experiencing chronic back pain, the chances are high that you or someone in your family will experience back pain at some point during the holidays.
It only makes sense that back pain increases over the holidays. You’re involved in more activities that aren’t part of your normal routine (think about Christmas lights) and you’re more likely to be traveling and in unfamiliar environments.
Keeping this reality in mind, here are a few strategies from Dr. John Michels at Interventional Spine and Pain in Dallas to avoid back pain during the holidays.
Build a strong core
The best way to avoid back problems is to build a strong core ahead of time. The stronger your core muscles in your belly and back are, the less chance there is of straining your back as you lift boxes and presents, pick up relatives’ children, and load and unload luggage. A high level of physical fitness will serve you well throughout the holiday season.
Get help decorating
Let’s make this one easy: don’t put up Christmas decorations by yourself! Ask for help from your family members and friends. This is even more important when you’re setting up a large, awkward Christmas tree or hanging Christmas lights on the house. Be careful going up and down ladders, and try to avoid repetitive twisting or lifting motions.
This one is pretty easy also: do as much online shopping as you can to save your back. The more you navigate multiple stores, parking lots, and trips to the mall, the more stress you put on your back, especially as public spaces get more crowded throughout the holiday season. Make yourself familiar with online stores and gift cards, and your back will thank you.
Make cooking a group effort
If you’re having a large group over for a meal, you already know how much work it can be. Staying on your feet for long hours at a time can wreak havoc on your back, so spread the work out as much as possible. Do as much prep work ahead of time as you can, assign specific dishes to others to bring, and let others help you with serving and cleaning up.
With the above-mentioned family gatherings, travel, and shopping, the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year. When we’re under stress, we tend to be more tense, which can cause pain in our muscles. You probably can’t eliminate all stress, but you can manage it with a few simple steps.
First, plan ahead. Leave extra time in your schedule so you don’t have to rush all the time. This may help you reduce the fatigue and exertion that can raise your stress levels. You should also break tasks down into smaller pieces. You don’t have to do all your shopping or decorating in one day, for example.
You should also take plenty of time to rest, eat well, and stay hydrated. If you fill up on junk food, you’ll gain weight, which will exacerbate your back pain. Drinking lots of water is important as well, as dehydration can lead to stiffness and soreness in your muscles.
One last tip is to take some time throughout the season for exercise such as yoga, stretching, or walking. These activities both give you time away from stressful environments and help your body relax, which will keep it in better condition.
If you follow these steps to avoid back pain during the holidays, you should sail through the season with no problem. If you do run into some back pain, contact Dr. Michels at Interventional Spine and Pain. Our expert team will have you back on your feet in no time so you can enjoy the holidays!