Dr. Anand Blog
November 11, 2016
It’s that time of year again, the much-anticipated holiday season knocking at our front door. Most of us look forward to the holidays. It is a time to visit with friends and family, break out the seasonal home decorations, hit the stores for gift shopping, and eat lots (and lots) of “comfort” food. Though that may sound like heaven on earth, and for the most part it is, it never fails that I see a few more people than usual showing up to my office after the holidays with one universal complaint – back pain. So here are a couple pointers to follow to ensure your spine remains strong, healthy, and uninjured during this whirlwind and wonderful holiday season.
If any time is the time to eat a little bit more and a little less healthily than usual, it’s the holidays. And when the schedule starts to fill up and there seems to not be enough hours in the day, what’s the first thing to get crossed off the list? Exercise. It may seem like no big deal to forego the usual exercise routine for a few weeks while you try to get on top of your holiday errands list, but those back muscles will slowly start losing their strength AND you won’t be burning those extra calories you might be consuming. Overeating and extra calories may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about back pain, but even just a few pounds of extra weight can multiply the pressure on the spine and increase susceptibility to an injury. Squeeze in 20 minutes a day to take a walk around the block, swim a few laps in the pool (hopefully it’s heated) or simply stretch out in your living room. Right along with exercising, make sure you are getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night because losing that precious rest time can actually lead to, or worsen, back pain.
With family, neighbors, coworkers, and friends on the holiday checklist, shopping lists multiply this time of year. Before you know it, you’ve spent an entire day out hopping from store to store, lugging bulky and heavy bags and your aching back is there to testify. This may sound silly (we are in fact shopping, not running a marathon), but getting in a good stretch before and after a shopping trip will loosen up your muscles and relieve some stress and stiffness, making you less prone to the post-shopping soreness that can lead to further injury. Also, make sure you’re wearing a comfortable pair of shoes with cushion and support for your feet when you shop because it will provide the same cushion and relief for your lower back.
Now for the ladies especially, I know the motto for purses these days: the bigger the better. The oversized bags that are filled with everything except the kitchen sink? Leave them at home. Instead, try carrying a small cross-body satchel with the bare essentials- credit card, ID, and car keys. Small backpacks are an even better option, to evenly distribute the weight on your shoulders/back and free up your hands. Lastly, remember to take breaks. At least every hour take a moment to sit down, grab a water bottle and light (healthy) snack, and give your back a chance to recover and recharge.
Time to break out the decoration bins from the garage, gather your wrapping paper and scissors, and have some fun! However, keep your back in mind because these two holiday happenings can hit your back the hardest. Be mindful not to bend at the waist when lifting those heavy boxes or string of lights. ALWAYS bend at the knees and try to avoid twisting when you have your hands full. Make decorating a family affair, so you’re not overstressing your muscles (and your mind) trying to do it all yourself. And when it comes to wrapping gifts, don’t do it all at once. Set yourself up at a table with a comfortable chair instead of sprawling out on the floor (this will prevent you from hunching) and wrap only a few gifts at a time allowing yourself plenty of breaks in between.
With everything going on this holiday season, remember to take time for YOU. Pay special attention to what your body is telling you so you can keep your back and your mind happy and healthy while you roll into the New Year pain-free!