Don’t let back pain in the festive season become a Ho-Ho-Horror Story! This time of year tends to be very hectic in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. It can be both exciting and stressful frantically preparing for the festive period. Here are a few tips to help you avoid low back pain or if you already suffer with pain to help reduce the potential strains that the festive period may bring.
Christmas Tree and Decorations
It’s important to consider how you are going to carry your tree, position it and decorate it so you don’t put too much strain through your spine. Make sure that if you have to lift the tree which can be heavy and awkwardly shaped that you have someone to help and you keep your back straight and bend your knees.
Having your tree in a position where you can access right the way around it will make it easier on your back so you’re not having to bend awkwardly around the side of the tree to wrap the lights all the way round.
Make decorating a family/group activity instead of doing it all yourself. Get someone to help you decorate the tree, so that one person can hand lights and ornaments to the other person to hang. That way, you’ll avoid repetitive reaching or twisting in a way that adds stress to your back. Use a stepladder if needed to avoid overstretching to the higher branches.
If decorating the outside of your home for Christmas, ensure that you use a sturdy ladder for reaching those higher places and have someone steadying the bottom of this. Keep moving the ladder close to where you need to reach rather than overstretching.
Before you leave the house prepare for the time on your feet by wearing sensible, flat and supportive shoes. Carry only the essentials in your bag wallet/purse, phone, keys etc.
When standing in queues for long periods, shift your weight from foot to foot.
Avoid strain on your spine by distributing the weight of your shopping bags evenly, carrying equally in right and left hands or alternatively use a rucksack or shopping trolley.
Do several small trips rather than one over-loaded trip. So, try not to leave all your shopping until the last minute! Make a trip back to the car (if you have driven), to offload some shopping before going back for more if needed.
For heavy or awkward items, engage the help of a shop assistant, use a trolley and if possible, park at the rear of the store to reduce the distance required to reach your car. Alternatively, why not order these heavier items for home delivery to further reduce the strain.
Shopping online can also reduce the strain on your spine from all the carrying. You could have the gifts shipped straight to your loved ones and friends, to avoid standing in long lines at the post office. Alternatively, have online purchases gift-wrapped and delivered to you, so you can hand them to friends and family in person.
Wrapping and card writing
Sit on a chair at a table to write your cards and wrap your gifts rather than standing and bending over them at a table or kneeling on the floor which can cause increased pressure on your lower back. Again, try not to leave this all until the last minute so that you can break it down into small amounts per sitting and pace yourself on the build up to the big day!
Having lots of people over for Christmas dinner or a party? Prepare as much as you can ahead of time. For instance, vegetables can be chopped and prepared the night before. Before you start cooking, look at the space you have to use in your kitchen. Is there a place you can sit while chopping? If not, why not use the dining table for some tasks. Leaning over the sink either peeling the veg or washing up will cause the muscles in the lower back to overwork, it’s important to change your position regularly. Alternate sitting and standing tasks as much as you can. You could also place an upside-down bowl under your washing up bowl to lift it higher, so you don’t have to lean too far forwards.
If you tend to forget to change position, set a timer to remind you to sit down, rest, or stand up. Even better invite the guests to come and help with the preparations to lighten the load and you’ll also have it done in a fraction of the time!
When lifting the turkey or roasties out of the oven keep your back straight, bend your knees and stick your bottom out. You could break this down into stages by putting the turkey/ roasties onto on a stool from the oven (on a heat protective mat) then when ready lift it up to the worktop.
At the meal itself, let your guests assist you with serving and clean up to share the load.
Don’t become a couch potato! Sitting glued to the television for prolonged periods especially when sitting in a poor position on the sofa can increase the strain through your spine and increase the risk of back pain. Ensure your chair has good spinal support and that you are not slouching and get up and move around and stretch regularly!
Ever popular gaming and electronic gadgets (including your smartphone) can increase your risk of persistent back and neck problems. If using these, you should take regular breaks and get up and move around.
Involve your family and friends in playing games that are active– for example Wii games, charades, bowling. Give children and young people Christmas presents which will prompt everyone to be more active.
Encourage the whole family to take Christmas walks to get you all moving, reduce the risk of your back stiffening and aid digestion of your Christmas dinner and treats.
If snow and ice should hit, watch out for slippery steps and driveways. If shovelling snow, bend from your knees (not your back) with your feet apart, one foot in front of the other.
Take Care of Yourself
The holidays can be so busy that you may be tempted to give up on your regular eating and exercise routine. Don’t do it—you need to strengthen and stretch your body with exercise no matter how hectic things get. Stretching can help you stay mobile and reduce your risk of back strain. If you don’t have time for your regular exercise routine, don’t give it up altogether. Try breaking exercise up into smaller chunks of time throughout the day, take a 10 minute walk twice a day for example.
Continue to eat regular, healthy meals. Gaining weight can make back pain worse. Keeping on track with healthy eating isn’t easy during the holidays, so have a plan in place before you start the round of festive parties.
- In preparation, on the day you’re going to a party ensure that you eat breakfast to prevent overeating later in the day.
- Once you’re at the party, fill up your plate with low-calorie foods such as vegetables, leafy green salads and lean proteins.
- Don’t stand within arm’s reach of calorific ‘nibbles’ like nuts and crisps.
- Have some of that high calorie food but just enough to taste it but not overindulge.
As you look ahead to the coming year, consider simple ways to improve the health of your spine. It can be as easy as setting a goal to add a 5- to 15-minute walking break to your day.
Sign up for that Yoga or Pilates class you’ve been thinking about. Email us or give us a call on 01642 680 680 to find out our current class times.
Maybe you have a loved one who is suffering with their back and would benefit from a gift voucher for a physiotherapy session or sports massage?
Cheryl Hepples BSc (Hons) MCSP
Gift vouchers are now available to buy your loved one the Gift of Health for Christmas 2018!!!
Give us a call on 01642 680 680 or email us for more details!