The holidays are a time for celebration and togetherness, but the extensive preparation also can lead to stress or even pain and injury. From properly handling ornament boxes to safely scaling a ladder for the outdoor lighting display, remember to take proper precautions this holiday season.
Some of the common causes for pain or injury around the holidays include retrieving decoration boxes, stringing lights and even spending too much time on your feet.
When it comes to fetching items from storage, overexertion can lead to neck and arm injuries and lower back pain, according to Nicole Kauppila, manager of occupational therapy services at Athletico Physical Therapy in Oak Brook, Illinois. She suggests lifting with the knees as opposed to bending at the back.
“Make sure to move boxes close to you before lifting to protect the elbows and back,” Kauppila advises. “Make it a family affair by enlisting the help of others to carry heavy or awkward items.”
Similar to heavy boxes are weighty shopping bags. Gift giving is one of the most rewarding parts of the season, but schlepping a half-dozen awkward, hefty bags can hurt the shoulders and back.
“Consider bringing a fold-up shopping cart so you can load up your gifts and wheel them around,” advises Kauppila. “And forget the big, heavy satchel purse. Bring only what you need to make your purchases.”
It may sound intuitive, but some people experience pain around the holidays simply from spending too much time on their feet — standing on a hard kitchen floor or hours spent walking around shopping, for instance. Kauppila recommends supportive footwear and regular breaks in the busy preparation schedule.
Of course, one of the most likely causes of injury around the holidays is the old Clark Griswold lighting project. Christmas Decor by Watermark in Laurel, Maryland, offers many decorating services, but lighting is the most popular, according to owner Nick Leinbach.
“Most people, I think, feel uneasy when they go up a ladder, when they begin to experience leaving the nice, firm ground,” Leinbach says. “That’s something that I think any homeowner is challenged with.”
Leinbach recommends researching the ladder safety protocol from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and using caution during inclement weather.
“Poor weather would be any kind of moisture, really,” Leinbach says. “Cold temperatures are something that you deal with, but we don’t go up on roofs in ice conditions or wet weather.”
Of course, hiring a professional for potentially dangerous tasks like roof lighting is always an option. Leinbach’s installation teams are properly trained in safety regulations and even wear specialized shoes for asphalt shingles.
Effects of Stress
Physically demanding tasks aren’t the only causes of pain or injury around the holidays. Stress, too, can be a major factor, particularly when it comes to aches and pains.
Dr. Todd Sinett, a New York chiropractor and author of “3 Weeks to a Better Back” (East End Press, 2015), says back pain actually results from three main factors: structural imbalance (such as poor positioning when lifting boxes), nutritional imbalance (overdosing on those holiday cookies) and stress.
“The No. 1 factor for back pain is emotional outlook and stress,” Sinett says. “When is the highest stress? Unfortunately, it’s around the holidays.”
To combat stress-related back pain, Sinett recommends staying mindful of anxiety and even engaging in charity work.
“One of the best ways to watch your stress levels is helping the less fortunate,” says Sinett. “Try and be appreciative throughout the holidays, and try and focus on what you have, and don’t focus on what you don’t have.”
Ultimately, the best approach to staying pain and injury-free this holiday season is to remain aware and exercise caution and common sense. If you are afraid of heights, hire someone to hang the outdoor lights. If your feet hurt, take a break. If you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to reflect upon and acknowledge the joy of the holiday season.
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