Avoiding Back Pain During Holiday Activities
Article By: Michael Gleiber, MD
Christmas is right around the corner, and will quickly be followed by New Year’s Day. For many of us, those holidays mean that there are several events and activities coming up, from dinners and parties to traditional family activities. Unfortunately, several of those activities have the potential to result in back pain. Don’t let back get in the way of holiday fun. First, we’ll discuss how to avoid back pain during dinner, and the events leading up to it.
Putting Up Decorations
Having festive decorations is part of the holiday fun. Feel free to deck the halls--but don’t hurt your back in the process.
- Use proper lifting techniques. When taking out and moving boxes of decorations, always make sure you’re lifting properly. Use your legs to do most of the work, and squat down to pick up boxes on the ground, keeping your back straight. Hold heavy items as close to your body as possible for more stability, and when turning, turn your whole body rather than twisting at the waist.
- Make accommodations for decorating high and low surfaces. If you’re decorating a surface lower than you can comfortably reach while standing, sit on a chair or stool if possible so you aren’t bending too much. Use a sturdy stool or step ladder so you can comfortably reach high surfaces without reaching or straining.
- Make it a family activity. If the whole family can join in, you won’t be putting as much stress on yourself and your back. If decorations need to be placed high up, one person can stand on the ladder while another hands up the decorations. This helps to avoid excessive bending when hanging decorations. Getting help from your family also gives everyone the opportunity to swap out activities so everyone isn’t sitting or standing the whole time.
Preparing for a holiday feast can be quite a lot of work, so it’s no wonder you might have back pain after spending the entire day in the kitchen. Try these tips to make it easier on your back.
- Pay attention to your posture. Whether you’re spending a lot of time at the cutting board chopping ingredients or watching over a pot on the stove, don’t get so engrossed in what you’re doing that you forget to keep good posture. When we focus in on what we’re doing, we tend to hunch over without even realizing it. Make a conscious effort to keep your shoulders back, and your back will thank you.
- No heels in the kitchen. While it’s understandable that you want to look nice, if you’re planning on wearing heels, try not to put them on until you expect your guests to start arriving. When you’re in the kitchen cooking, you spend a lot of time standing. Heels are not supportive or comfortable enough to stand in for long periods of time. They also place the feet in an unnatural position, with the heels above the toes. This can affect your overall posture, and improper posture leads to back pain.
- That turkey might be heavier than you think. A large turkey can be quite heavy to take out of the oven. Always practice proper lifting techniques when removing a turkey from the oven. Feet should be shoulder-width apart, and you should bend at the knees and hips. Keeping your back straight, lift with the legs. If necessary, change directions with your feet to avoid twisting at the waist. Pull the oven rack out a little to avoid having to reach into the oven to remove the turkey.
- Give it a rest. Give yourself time to sit down and take a break. Standing all day can be hard on the back. This can also give you time to take a breather from what you’re doing so that you don’t get too overwhelmed and stressed out by everything in front of you.
At The Dinner Table
Holiday dinners often involve several courses or dishes, and we spend a lot of time talking and reminiscing with friends and family, so these dinners tend to be longer than typical dinners. Just as too much standing can be bad for your back, so can too much sitting.
- Sit up straight. You’re going to be spending a lot of time at the table, and if your posture is incorrect, you put yourself at risk for back pain. I stress good posture quite a bit, but it really is an important part of spine health. Make your mother proud, and sit up straight during those holiday dinners.
- Try not to sit down too long. Getting up to take a little walk every once in awhile will help you to avoid back pain from too much sitting. Offer to help bring food from the kitchen to the table, or help collect the dishes when everyone is done. This will give you a little break from sitting down.
- Eat slowly and enjoy the meal. As we know, overeating on the holidays can lead to weight gain, and those extra pounds aren’t kind to our backs. By eating your meal slowly, you’ll be able to recognize when you are actually full, so you aren’t eating more food than you need.
Once you’ve gotten through preparing and having your holiday dinner, you might want to relax on the couch and watch the game or take a nap.
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