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Surprising Ways the Holidays Cause Back Pain

Is your back aching as you go through the holiday frenzy? This may be why.

The holiday season is typically filled with lots of cheer, but you may also find yourself feeling more aches and pains than usual. Being a little more tired is expected since there’s usually more going on and your calendar is full. But no one wants to be sidelined with pain during the holidays, especially back pain which can be debilitating.

Orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Dami Oluyede says there are some surprising ways the holidays can hurt your back—and shares some ways to stop it from happening:

  • Lifting. Whether you are carrying heavy presents, bringing in a carload of groceries, hauling home a tree, or holding your sister’s kids, your back can pay the price. “To avoid back pain, don’t lift too much at one time and use proper form when lifting,” said Dr. Oluyede. “Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, bend from your knees (not from your back) and slowly lift by straightening your knees and maintaining good posture. Hold whatever you’re picking up as close to your body as possible.”

  • Decorating. Climbing up and down ladders and reaching to hang decorations may cause you to pull a muscle or strain your back. Be careful when hanging decorations, and don’t reach too far. According to Dr. Oluyede, you should avoid repetitive lifting or twisting and ask for help with large, heavy, or awkward decorations. Aside from taking precautions, it’s also helpful to do a few stretches before and after you begin decorating to warm up your muscles.

  • Traveling. Many people do more traveling than usual during the holidays, which can cause your back to hurt. From long road trips to sitting on a plane, you may get to your destination with an aching back if you don’t take a few precautions. “Get up often to stand and stretch, even if that means making a few extra stops along the way,” says Dr. Oluyede. “Also, be careful when lifting heavy luggage or gifts for family and friends.”

  • Stress. You know all that stress you may be feeling during the holidays? It can all show up as back pain if you’re not careful. "When we are stressed, our bodies tense up, and that tension, in turn, can cause pain,” adds Dr. Oluyede. Not only is it good for your back to find ways to de-stress, but your overall mental and physical health will benefit if you have a bag of stress-busting tricks ready to go when you need them.

  • Relaxing. How can relaxing hurt your back? All that sitting around and lounging may cause your back and hips to get stiff and achy. While taking some time off to unwind is good for you, Dr. Oluyede warns that if you are too sedentary, you may feel the pain. Mix in some physical activity with all that sitting around, even if it’s just a walk around the block or a few stretches while watching your favorite holiday movie.

As you enjoy the holidays, take a few extra precautions to avoid back pain and strain. It’s also helpful to get in some physical activity and stretching, as well as to eat healthy, stay hydrated and rest. By taking good care of yourself, you’ll not only help your back but you’ll help your health in many other ways, too.

If back pain is still an issue, we can help you get back to what you love. The orthopedic specialists at Mercy and Memorial Hospitals offer personalized solutions and treatment options delivered with humankindness.

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