When people think of the holidays, they usually don’t associate them with back pain. Some holiday activities can cause back pain, but luckily there are steps you can take to prevent it. Continue reading below for 7 tips to keep your back healthy during the holiday season.
Full holiday schedules keep everyone busy with shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking and preparing for travel. But in all the hustle and bustle, many people don’t realize that these common holiday activities can place a lot of strain on your back, putting you at risk of injury if you’re not careful. This holiday season, you can avoid back pain and prevent injury by taking some proactive steps for preserving your health. Here are some of our top tips for keeping your back healthy this holiday season.
1. Shop Online
One of the most taxing holiday responsibilities is shopping. Not only is facing a flurry of crowds an exhausting experience, but it can also be bad for your back. When visiting the mall to do your holiday shopping, you might not realize just how much walking you do. If you aren’t wearing comfortable shoes, your back may pay for it later. Waiting in long lines can cause low back pain and carrying heavy bags can be hard on your shoulders.
The best solution to prevent back pain from shopping is to avoid it altogether. Online shopping lets you avoid malls, traffic, and heavy loads. You can take your time and shop for the perfect gifts for your loved ones and order your gifts well in advance. With online shopping, there’s no risk to your back, and you can use the time you save to spend with family or do some holiday baking and Christmas crafts.
For those who aren’t as tech-savvy or prefer to do last-minute shopping, gift cards can offer a similar solution to prevent back pain and injury.
2. Set Up an Ergonomic Wrapping Station
Wrapping presents is one of those activities that’s fun at first. But by the 10th gift, it feels more like a punishment. When wrapping gifts, you’re at risk of repetitive motion injuries due to constant strain on your arms, neck, and shoulders. If you’re crouched down on the floor and have all your supplies spread out around you, your low back will start to take the brunt of your movements as your spinal discs begin to compress.
This holiday season, practice ergonomic wrapping. Sit at a table or stand at a countertop, so you don’t have to hunch. Set up your ergonomic gift wrapping station by gathering all of your supplies and keep them next to you in a bin. This prevents you from having to constantly strain across the table, reaching for the scissors, tape, ribbons, and bows. You might also consider precutting your wrapping paper into sheets of various sizes. This way, you give yourself more space at the table to stay organized and keep your supplies at arm’s length.
If you’re making multiple shopping trips, you might get into the habit of wrapping as you buy. Instead of wrapping dozens of gifts in one sitting, you can spread out the wrapping over several days, which alleviates pressure on your back. And don’t forget the convenience of gift bags. It takes much less time and is easier on your back.
3. Use a Step Ladder
Falls are one of the most common holiday accidents. Falls happen when you’re in a hurry to put up the tree, decorations and lights. You might strain a bit too far or carry too heavy a load in one arm, causing you to lose your balance. Though you might be anxious to finish the decorating, saving a bit of time is not worth the risk of a back injury.
Protect your back this holiday season by taking your time and using a sturdy step ladder. When decorating the tree, slowly climb up and have someone hand you decorations rather than carrying an armful up yourself. When putting up outdoor Christmas lights, always do it in the daylight, and be sure to have a spotter who can assist you. Wear rubber tread shoes for extra grip, and always practice proper ladder safety.
4. Prep Your Ingredients Ahead of Time
Preparing a holiday meal is a lot of work. Standing all day in the kitchen can put significant pressure on your spine, especially your low back. When you’re bent over the cutting board, chopping your fresh ingredients, your shoulders and neck can begin to ache. Before you know it, your whole body is in pain even though you’ve still got lots left to do.
Just as it makes more sense to spread out gift wrapping over multiple days, it also makes more sense to do the same with your food preparation. Set yourself a week-long food prep schedule that will take the pressure off. For example, you can peel and chop your potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots and other ingredients a few days ahead, and you can bake your pies the day before. Come the day of, you’ll have a lot less to worry about, and your back will thank you.
As you’re prepping food, alternate between sitting and standing to give different muscle groups a break. If you prefer to stand, make sure you keep your weight as evenly distributed as possible. Most people have one leg they favor over another, which bears more weight and causes imbalanced posture. Take regular breaks and lean on the counter as often as possible to relieve pressure from your low back. Keep your chest out and shoulders back to alleviate tension in your neck and between your shoulder blades. When seated, be mindful not to hunch or slouch.
5. Be Careful With Heavy Loads
You might not realize just how much lifting you do during the holidays. You carry your shopping bags and groceries from the car to the house, making multiple trips. You bring out boxes of Christmas decorations and supplies and carry them up or down the stairs. All of this lifting can put you at risk of injury.
When lifting heavy loads, always keep your back flat and your core engaged. Use the strength of your legs to press into the ground as you lift the load. When carrying bags, try to evenly distribute the weight between arms. Most people tend to overload one arm to keep their dominant hand free for opening doors.
With so much lifting and carrying, it’s important to ask for help and share the load. Schedule your grocery shopping at a time when you know someone else will be home. That way, they can help you carry the groceries into the kitchen and help you put everything away. When you’ve got lots of gifts to go from the car to the house, it’s better to make several trips with smaller loads than to risk overloading your back. If it doesn’t spoil any surprises, get help bringing in the gifts and supplies or divide up the responsibilities of shopping.
6. Use Back Support at the Dinner Table
Sitting down to enjoy a holiday meal is the reward for the work of the season. At holiday dinner, it’s common to sit and enjoy yourself for hours on end. But staying seated for an extended period can also be hard on your back. If possible, get up walk around every so often to keep your blood flowing. Remember to keep your spine in proper alignment, which you can do with the help of an ergonomic support for your chair.
A memory foam seat cushion will conform to the natural curve of your spine, keeping it supported. This helps to alleviate pressure from your low back, which tends to compress when you’re seated for a long time. Back cushions can also help you to relax tense muscles because they contour to your spine, giving you more support so you can let go of tension. By using a back support at the dinner table, you’ll be able to forget about back pain and enjoy yourself.
7. Bring Travel Pillows
If it’s not your turn to host, then you may be traveling for the holidays. Sitting for long periods in the car or on a plane can aggravate existing back pain or cause new aches. You can travel comfortably with ergonomic pillows and supports designed to be compact, lightweight and portable. With a travel pillow, you’re better able to keep your spine in a neutral posture, alleviating as much pressure as possible from your back and neck.
Additionally, if you’re not someone who sleeps well away from home, a travel pillow can improve your comfort when not in your own bed. Foam wedges and sleep cushions help alleviate back and hip pressure on unfamiliar mattresses. Travel pillows and cushions can also help you relax more deeply when you need to take a break and spend some time alone.