For many people, holiday "cheer" can also mean holiday "chores" – dragging the Christmas tree into the house; carrying heavy boxes of decorations out of the basement; lugging shopping bags through the mall; and, in recent years, shoveling a lot of snow.
According to a Rothman Institute physical therapist, these chores can bring unwanted strains, sprains and pain. “We see a lot of patients during the holidays with lower back pain, neck pain, and even fractures,” says John Guillama,PT, DPT. “This is because some of the activities we perform during the holidays can actually be quite strenuous.”
In order to avoid an injury this season, Guillama offers the following safety tips and precautions:
- When shopping, wear appropriate footwear like sneakers to avoid stress on the legs and lower back. If possible, use a cart to carry bags around.
- When lifting something heavy, bend at the knees instead of the back and keep the load close to your body.
- Take breaks and stretch. Avoid hunching over for long periods of time when baking, wrapping presents or shoveling.
- Lift smaller loads of snow instead of filling the entire shovel. When releasing the load, face the direction of the area you are dumping the snow to avoid twisting the back.
- Use salt on driveways and sidewalks to melt ice that can cause slips and falls.
- Stretch – backbends and shoulder circles – before, during and after shoveling or lifting heavy objects.
Guillama says that if someone experiences pain while doing any of these activities, a heating pad and ice pack can be alternated on the area that hurts. If pain persists for more than a few days it’s time to see a doctor or physical therapist.
“This is a fun time of year, but it comes with a lot of chores that our bodies may not always be prepared for in the dead of winter,” he says. “No one wants to have a broken bone or strained back during the holidays, so make sure to always put safety first.”