How to avoid those holiday headaches and pain that can tax your back
The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but, if you’re suffering with chronic back pain, it could also be a time of pain and frustration. Even activities that seem tame can leave you reaching for the heating pad and the bottle of Advil. But you can avoid those holiday headaches by being aware of the back pain triggers and taking proper precautions.
Yes, shopping for all those holiday gifts can put your back through a lot, especially if long lines are involved, you have to push a heavy cart or lift and carry heavy items, and/or you have to wait around in shoes that aren’t the most comfortable or supportive. Add in some pushing and shoving, which can be a reality if you’re hitting a really good sale that has limited quantities of Doorbuster items, and you could end up flat on your back by the end of the day—if not sooner.
Thankfully, some of the best holiday deals can be found online today. If you know where to look for holiday deals, you can do all your shopping in your slippers, from the comfort of home, and save yourself the aggravation and the pain.
Standing at the stove for long periods of time, or the sink, for that matter, can make your back ache—especially if you have a pre-existing injury or are living with chronic back pain. You may not think about wearing comfortable, supportive shoes while you’re on your feet for long periods in the house, but you should. Your fuzzy slippers aren’t going to make your pain any better. When you start feeling achy after a while, your shoes (or lack thereof) may be partly to blame.
A padded wellness or anti-fatigue mat may also help. They can be a little pricey for a quality version, but the padding can give your joints a break and help keep back pain away. If you find yourself in pain after a few minutes regardless of what’s on, and under, your feet, have a seat. There’s no shame in peeling potatoes or chopping vegetables from the comfort of your kitchen table.
Putting up Christmas Décor
Putting up a tree sounds harmless enough except when you consider all the bending and turning and twisting and reaching you might have to do to get it all fancied up. Ditto for putting up lights and other outdoor décor, and any other holiday decorations you have planned for the house. The garland that you always wind around your banister sounds like a backache (or a dangerous trip and fall) waiting to happen if it means you’ll be positioning yourself precariously on individual stairs during the process.
Stretching before you embark on any potentially strenuous activity at the holidays can help get your muscles loose, but asking for help with anything that might tweak or injure your back is key—especially if you’re already in pain to begin with.
Having guests over for the holidays? You might end up in full-blown cleaning mode, which is great for your house, but maybe not so much for your back. Be careful about moves that could put pressure on your spine or create muscle strain.
“Tackling those ‘Honey Do’ lists at home can also set you up for injury, especially if you were idle for most of the week,” said WebMD. “Cleaning out the garage, bending over a workbench, or spending hours in the yard or garden can be just as hard on your back as anything you do on a playing field.”
Experts recommend if you already have a chronic back injury or consistent pain that you limit your twisting, reaching, and lifting. Those same tips can help you avoid an injury. If you’re lifting, remember to use your legs. Bend at the knees instead of the waist, and don’t round your back. Holding items against your body instead of out in front of you will also help. Also, “Never hold an item higher than your armpit or lower than your knees,” said WebMD, and “Don’t move something that weighs more than 20% of your body weight.”
Wrapping gifts may seem like one of the most low-impact, no-problem activities there is, except when you consider that you’ll likely be bending and stretching during the process. For someone with a sore back, that could mean increased pain. If you’re going to be doing the wrapping, pay attention to your posture. If you find yourself slouching or bending in a way that is not comfortable for your back, you might need to switch up your environment; a supportive chair with a table directly in front of you that will limit your need to reach for supplies, for instance. Swapping ornately designed packages for easy-to-stuff gift bags can also cut an enormous amount of time from the gift-wrapping process.
Seeing a doctor
If you’re experiencing ongoing back pain, you might need treatment. Advancements in minimally invasive surgical procedures have changed the game for those who have been suffering from chronic back pain. There are a variety of minimally invasive treatments for back pain, as well as minimally invasive surgical procedures that vastly improve upon traditional back surgery. Long surgeries and recoveries associated with traditional procedures can now be a thing of the past, with shorter operations, smaller incisions, and quicker recoveries. Many minimally invasive surgical procedures can also be done on an outpatient basis with complete recovery in a few weeks.