My patients tell me that sometimes they cannot figure out what hurts more, the lightening of their wallet or the recurring back aches and pains during the holiday season. I can't help you with your wallet, but I can help you make sure your body doesn't get in the way of all the fun. Smart back care and attention to simple tasks can make all the difference. 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. Here are some ways to reduce the stress on your back.
- Maintain a wide base of support by placing one foot more forward than the other. This will keep your weight distributed and the spine in good alignment. Shift your weight frequently between the front and back leg.
If you are wearing heels, be cautious to avoid locking the knees. This will cause an increased arch in the back. When shaking hands, be close enough to the person so that you do not have to lean forward from the waist. Stand with your feet front and back to naturally shift you body forward when extending your arm to shake hands. Move around frequently to change your position. When possible, sit for a few minutes to give your back and legs a rest. If you are cooking, keep your shoulders back to avoid hunching over the counter or stove. and Also bring the food close to the front of the counter edge for chopping and mixing. Wear an apron! When standing by the stove, counter, or sink for extended periods of time, open a low cabinet door to prop up one foot. This decreases the stress on the back and causes you to bend from the hips, instead of from the back when leaning forward. When placing or retrieving heavy dishes from the oven, pull the shelf out of the oven first. This will prevent you from bending and reaching over the door into the oven while holding a heavy dish. Remember to bend your knees when retrieving an object from a low surface in order to keep the back straight.
One of the most overlooked activities is decorating for the holidays. You end up twisting and turning and standing on shaky surfaces you would not let your child stand on!
- When lifting boxes of decorations, squat down to keep the back straight. Use your leg muscles to absorb the weight of the box as you stand.
Carry the box close to the body and take small loads at a time. Put the decorations on a table at a height where you do not need to bend over to pick up objects repetitively.When decorating low surfaces, sit in a chair while you decorate to avoid repetitive bending. When decorating high surfaces, use a stool to avoid excessive reaching and arching in your back.
Most importantly remember to keep your body attached to your brain. If you have a little pain, don't push it and if you have a lot of pain, call your doctor. If you follow these guidelines, you will enjoy the traditions of the holidays and your family -- just like when you were a kid with bright shining eyes and a skip in your step.