Seasons greetings one and all! Christmas will soon be upon us, and although it is the season of good cheer, it is also a common time for people to upset their spines! Be sure to take note of the following tips so back pain doesn’t ruin the festive holiday:
The problems can begin with shopping for Christmas presents. Traipsing around the shops looking for the “perfect” presents for your nearest and dearest, can put your spine under a lot of mechanical stress. Wear sensible shoes that support your feet properly, and try to balance the weight of your shopping bags equally in both hands. If you try to do all your shopping in one day, have regular breaks, even if it is only to take parcels back to your car. If you do most of your shopping online, take regular breaks away from your computer so that your back doesn’t get stuck in one position.
Once the Christmas shopping is finished, there is the tree and house to decorate. If, like me, you prefer a real tree, there will be a trip to a local Christmas tree farm to saw down or dig up the perfectly shaped tree, then you will need to manhandle it back to your car and set it up at home, ensuring it is vertical. All of this can put your lower back under a lot of strain, and leave you with aching shoulders. The next hazard is decorating the tree so take care when you pick up boxes of decorations. Keep your spine in a neutral position and bend your hips and knees, and do not bend, lift and twist at the same time. Have fun decorating the tree making sure that you get an even distribution of the lights and the colours of the decorations.
Wrapping Christmas presents can be great fun, but can also be hard work for your lower back. Try to wrap as you buy, rather than leaving it all until Christmas Eve. Sit at a table or stand at a kitchen worktop, rather than sitting on the floor or standing bending over a table. Make sure you take regular breaks and walk around, even if it is only to get a coffee or a glass of wine to keep you going.
What you eat and drink can also have an effect on your back. Drinking too much alcohol can cause you to fall over and injure yourself, and drinking alcohol over several days can increase any pre-existing inflammation in joints. Alcohol can also result in dehydration of the whole body, including the discs in your spine, so make sure you drink plenty of water too. However, drinking 2-3 alcoholic drinks can help muscles relax. At Christmas we also tend to overload on sugar in the form of Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, mince pies, alcohol, and the inevitable tins of chocolates. These excess sugars can affect your adrenal glands causing them to fatigue, leaving you feeling tired and drained, but they can also reduce the body’s natural anti-inflammatory corticosteroids, causing injuries to feel more painful.
When the big day finally arrives there are lots of things that can potentially upset your back. Cleaning the house if you are expecting visitors, standing preparing the all the vegetables for Christmas lunch, and then there is the turkey. Even a small turkey weighs around 15 pounds, and this can be quite cumbersome getting it in and out of the oven, so bend your knees and brace your lower back to avoid injury.
After the Christmas lunch, it is traditional to sit down and watch television. Unfortunately many sofas do not provide ideal lower back support, encouraging you to sit in a slumped position, so put a cushion in the small of your back. Having extra time off work over the Christmas period to relax may sound ideal, but try not to spend prolonged periods of time sitting down, but encourage the whole family to go for a walk instead.
If you do injure your back over the Christmas period, apply an ice pack (or a small packet of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) to the injured area for up to 10 minutes. As the pain reduces, gentle stretching exercises can improve your mobility. For your neck: bend and turn it gently from side to side. For your lower back, lie on the floor and bring each knee in turn up to your chest and hold for a few seconds. Repeat 6 times for each leg. Pelvic tilt exercises can also help: lie on the floor with your knees bent up, feet flat on the floor, then flatten your lower back on to the ground for a few seconds, and repeat 6 times.
Remember you’ve only got one spine: take good care of it!
Guildford Chiropractic Centre is only closed on Sundays and public holidays, so if you do injure your back over the festive period, you should be able to see one of our chiropractors promptly.
Finally, on behalf of all the team here, I would like to wish everyone in our community a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!