Aunt Linda is insisting on bringing all her own food, you can’t get a commitment on whether or not Jerry and family are coming for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, both, or neither, and you’ve been actively searching for ways to diffuse the political firestorm that’s bound to explode at the dinner table—again. No wonder you’re feeling holiday stress! If you’ve also been noticing an increase in your spinal pain, it’s not a coincidence.
“Stress is what you feel when you have too much to handle,” said WebMD. “You may have too much work to do, or you may be having trouble with children or a spouse. If stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can affect your health. If you hold stress in your body, it can affect your back. You may begin to tense your back muscles, which can trigger low back pain or make it worse.”
The worst part is that once your back starts to hurt, it can start a vicious cycle. “You have back pain, and you begin to worry about it,” they said. “This causes stress, and your back muscles begin to tense. Tense muscles make your back pain worse, and you worry more … which makes your back worse … and so on.”
You may not be able to totally avoid stress this holiday season—after all, your family’s unique cast of characters is bound to create some kind of chaos. And, well, unless you remove all forms of communication from the house, someone is going to hear about something happening on the political landscape, and then there goes civility. What you can do is prepare the best you can for what you feel like is inevitable, or probable, and then practice all the self-care you can. Try a few (or all) of these activities to keep your stress level down and your spinal pain at bay.
- Do some deep breathing—It can help lower your cortisol levels.
- Do some yoga—Practicing yoga has shown to lower stress and anxiety levels.
- Take a walk—Getting outside in the fresh air can clear your head.
- Pet your dog—Petting your dog (or cat) can release “feel-good endorphins in you, reducing your heart rate,” said TODAY.
- Take a bath—Will it look strange if you excuse yourself from the party to go soak in the tub? Perhaps, but a “Swedish study published in the International Journal of Stress Management found that floating in water triggers the body’s relaxation response, helping lower stress-hormone levels,” said Shape. “Even better, nearly 80 percent of the subjects showed improvements such as feeling less tense and depressed.”
- Get in a workout—“It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can help relieve mental stress,” said Healthline.
- Drink some tea—The act of sitting down with a cup of tea can bring on a sense of relaxation, but green tea “has many polyphenol antioxidants, which provide health benefits,” said Healthline. “It may help stress and anxiety by increasing serotonin levels.”
Additional physical stress
It’s not only emotional stress that can take a toll and increase spinal pain at this time of year. An increase in your activity level, like extensive time standing on a hard floor preparing holiday meals, or the type of activity, like hunching over to wrap gifts, can bring on spinal pain. “The biggest problem is from the increased strain placed on your back when standing in the same posture for extended periods of time at holiday parties or repeatedly bending over,” said Huffington Post.
Paying attention to how you stand—maintaining “a wide base of support by placing one foot more forward than the other,” for instance, can help you keep your spine aligned. A few more tips include: Sitting whenever possible; wearing shoes that balance comfort with style if you’re attending holiday parties; limiting the twisting, turning, and ladder-climbing when putting up holiday décor; and paying attention to your posture when cooking, washing dishes, or wrapping gifts.
There may also be lots of walking around shopping centers when buying gifts over the next few weeks, and while that may sound fun, it can exacerbate an existing injury or create new spinal pain.
“Holiday shopping can be tough on your wallet,” said Consumer Reports. “But did you ever consider how your wallet might be equally tough on you, especially your back? George Costanza famously suffered from back pain after carrying an overstuffed wallet in one episode of ‘Seinfeld.’ And what about those heavy packages that weigh you down as you’re traipsing through the mall? All that extra baggage can cause pain in your lower back and throughout your body.”
If you’re ready to address your spinal pain, contact DISC Spine Institute, DFW’s leading experts in spinal surgery and minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain. Treating spinal pain is easier than ever today, with minimally invasive treatments that mean short hospital stays, and shorter recoveries.