When the holiday season is upon us we know that it can be a stressful time of year with all the tasks and preparation at hand. It is also a great time getting together with family and friends to attend Christmas and New Year’s parties. We all want to enjoy this time as much as possible without getting injured or developing pain in the process.
Here are some of the activities that everyone experiences before and during the holidays, and a few tips on how to come through with an injury-free holiday season.
1- Shopping: The expression “shop ‘til you drop” is the more common way of how we start and finish our Christmas shopping. We sometimes try to get a head-start on our Christmas shopping, but other things always come up which can delay your shopping until last minute. We are all guilty of procrastinating at some point. This can lead to binge shopping where we make one trip to purchase all of our gifts in only a few short hours. It is important to realize that our body is already in a certain degree of stress and we can overload ourselves by walking and carrying multiple bags on our shoulders at once. It is recommended to pace ourselves, keep hydrated, and make frequent trips to your car to drop off shopping bags, especially after a heavy purchase. Stretching in between each store and taking a 15-20 minute sitting break is ideal. Wearing a good pair of shoes is also important, especially if you are out all day finding that perfect gift.
2- Cooking: The holiday season is a perfect time for some tasty appetizers, filling dinners, and sugary desserts. Many families get together at one house and the host is in charge of the meal ideas and some of the preparing. We all help out in some way to make the dinners run smoothly. One of the most common activities is cooking a turkey which can be fairly heavy. It is important to watch your body mechanics while bending, lifting, and twisting especially with a heavy load. Using your hips and knees to bend, and getting close to the item you have to pick up is very important. Once you are carrying the tray, keep it close to your body and try to take smaller steps instead of twisting your back to put it on the counter. Breathing is also important when carrying any heavy load. We tend to hold our breath to give us more stability. If you already have some pre-existing issues with your low back or any upper or lower body issues, make sure you ask for help for the heavier work. Take breaks if you are standing for a long time, and change positions often to keep your body balanced.
3- Wrapping gifts: This activity can be a long process, especially if you leave it until last minute. We will try to get all our gift wrapping done in one sitting and this can take a toll on our bodies- usually you find yourself sitting crouched over the living room floor in bad posture. If you know you have pain in a specific or prolonged position, it is best to change your positions often or even pace yourself by taking breaks after wrapping a couple of gifts. You may also try gift wrapping early so you can spread it out over a longer period of time. Be sure to sit on a chair or stool to stretch your legs. Your body will thank you and you will likely feel less stressed/pressured than leaving it until Christmas Eve!
4- Dancing: As most women (and even some men) like to dance all night long when it comes to going out for a Christmas or New Year’s party – especially after a few celebratory cocktails. We want to look our best, and often sacrifice our feet/legs by wearing sky-high stilettos with a very thin heel. Some of us are more pre-disposed to ankle sprains or muscle strains in the calf due to previous injury/sports or type of footwear we use every day. Try wearing a lower heel or wedge which would help increase the stability of your ankle and likely prevent an unwanted sprain or strain from happening. You could also bring a second pair of more comfortable shoes to come in and out of the venue you are attending. Your lower back will also thank you!
5- Travelling: The busiest time to travel for most people is during the holiday season. Sitting in a car or flying long distances can take a toll on our low backs, necks, etc. Try bringing a neck pillow, and/or a lumbar roll to help give you the support and comfort you need. If driving, make a quick pit stop every hour to 2 hours to stretch your legs and walk around. Travellers can also do some pelvic tilts by hip rocking back and forth while sitting. Carrying and lifting luggage can also be an issue when flying. Try to use the suitcases with the 4 wheels and an extendable handle which will help improve your body mechanics. If you are having any issues with your upper body or low back, ask someone to help you lift heavy items. Stretching your neck and low back can help limit soreness before it comes on!
Hopefully this list of holiday activities and tips will help stop those aches and pains before they start! Remember, pacing yourself, regular stretching, and even the use of a heating pad can really make a difference, especially if you already have some discomfort.
We hope you have a great holiday season and stay safe out there!