Holiday Back Pain
Four out of five people will experience back pain during their life, and stress, fatigue and physical exertion during the holidays can quickly bring on the bah humbugs of lower back pain. Here are five seasonal challenges and tips to help keep your back in line this winter:
- Standing in lines. Whether it’s grocery shopping for big holiday meals, finding that perfect gift, or waiting in airport security areas, standing in long lines is one of the lesser joys of the season. How you stand makes a big difference to your lower back. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet, ensure that your knees are slightly bent, and keep feet shoulder width apart. Standing straight and tall can be difficult when you feel the defeat of holiday shopping or travel but don’t make the excursion worse with poor posture.
- Sitting too much. It’s been said that sitting is the new smoking. Our bodies are designed for activity. Sedentary behavior – including hours on the couch, at our desk, or in the car traveling – wreaks havoc on our muscles and reduces flexibility. Too often it becomes a vicious cycle: back pain leads you to shut down all activity and, with a body that’s built for movement, extended sedentary time leads to further complications (muscle atrophy, stiffness, loss of flexibility). Limit continuous sitting by building breaks into your day or try a standing desk.
- Long hours at work. How you sit at work matters. A lot. Good ergonomics go a long way towards back pain relief and prevention. Good desk habits include uncrossing your legs, using a chair with lumbar support, getting up and moving routinely and doing some basic exercises to help stimulate your muscles. Try sitting on a balance ball or using a standing desk, both of which help you to engage your core and take pressure off your back.
- Shoveling snow. Work and bills aren’t the only things that pile up during the holidays. Even though it’s been relatively dry this year, we all know is coming! Snow removal can directly lead to back pain. When you shovel, use your legs and lift with your knees, not with your back. This is especially important the closer you get to completion. As we tire, our form often suffers and that’s where back strain and pain occurs
- “Tech” Posture. Cellphones and laptops are a year-round challenge but we’re online now more than ever with 30 days of shopping – mostly spent on a laptop or ipad with questionable posture. An easy tip to ensure that you are in spine-friendly posture, is seeing if your ears are in line with your shoulders. If your ears are ahead of your shoulders, you are straining your spine. With poor posture, it’s only a matter of time before that strain and stress translates into back pain.
The spine is comprised of bones (vertebrae) and cushions (disks) that support all of your upper body weight. Our bodies’ natural movements make the spine subject to mechanical stress and pain – problems that increase with age and wear, and are exacerbated by certain repetitive movements. The result is bones pressing against nerves and causing pain.
These tips can help your keep your back and holidays in line, but if you’re already experiencing back pain, reach out to one of our spine specialists for help! Let’s put the cheer back into the holidays and keep the pain limited to travel and shopping.