By: Diptee Pathak PTA, CPT

Low Back Pain during the HolidaysWhy are PT clinics flooded with patients after the holidays? A majority of these patients seem to all come in for a similar diagnosis each time. Lower back pain. This pattern has been going on for years and it seems to be getting more common. What could be the cause for this and can it be prevented? I have an answer. YES. Let me explain.

During the holidays, people are running around to many stores, lifting heavy boxes, reaching overhead, putting lights up, carrying too many gift bags, standing on roofs and ladders, cooking, cleaning, and the list goes on and on. We tend to do way too many activities that our bodies cannot handle and we end up hurting ourselves. For instance, as we get older our core and trunk musculature lose strength as a natural part of aging. These vital muscles may not function properly when lifting unexpected weight quickly. This could result in an injury. Core weakness could cause a strain on the ligaments, disk herniation, and other complications to your spine when lifting a heavy box with a poor lifting technique.

Proper lifting techniques are important to learn and utilize into your daily activities to avoid back injuries. Some tips for this upcoming holiday:

• Squat down not “bend over”– keep a wide base of support (legs wide apart) bending at the hips and knees only. No leaning forward.

• Maintain good posture and a neutral spine– no forward head, shoulders rolled back and good alignment with hips, and a natural arch in the spine. A “neutral” spine means that your low back is neither slouched back or arched up.

• Hold the weight close to you -then return weight safely and slowly.

Practicing good lifting techniques are not the only things that are important to consider. These next key tips will really come in handy in the next few weeks.

Keep up that good posture: When things get stressful and busy during the holidays, our posture can be highly affected. Being aware of keeping good posture throughout the day can really save your back in the future. For example, when cooking foods, wrapping presents, or writing Christmas cards, it may not be a bad idea to sit at the dining room table and keep activities as close to eye level as possible. Standing for a prolonged time and looking down onto the kitchen counter can really aggravate the back. If you have been bent forward more than 5 minutes, stand and arch backwards. Set a timer if you must!

Plan ahead and play smart: Sometimes we have to understand our limits and pace our selves according to how our bodies are. If you know your going to have a busy shopping day and will need to do a lot of house work before guests arrive, call your spouse, a friend, family member, or your children for help when necessary. Remember, you do not have to carry all of the grocery bags at once. It is ok to take extra trips. This could avoid increased stress at the spine. Smaller bags, bags carried in each hand, and multiple trips all help avoid overloading your spine.

Relax, breathe, and be healthy: It is so easy to fall out of our normal routines during the holidays. We may find ourselves sitting more, watching television, and eating unhealthy sugary foods. These all can be stressors for the body. Your adrenal glands are on fire and very overworked when the body and mind are stressed. The adrenal glands produce anti-inflammatory affects which can be your body’s natural pain killer, so it is very important to keep these structures calm and relaxed so they can function to its maximum potential. Go get a workout in that day, avoid too sugary desserts, and keep staying healthy! Gaining weight does not make your back pain any better.

Use these tips to avoid back pain so that when you lift someone’s spirit, you don’t hurt yourself!!

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