5 Tips to Reduce Back Pain and Stress during the Holiday Season

The holidays can be a time of excitement mixed with stress. For people with chronic back or neck pain, the strain of accomplishing your to-do list can overshadow the pleasure of the season. This year, plan ahead so you can get your holiday chores done with a minimum of pain. Here are 5 tips for making these next few weeks more enjoyable and comfortable.

gift box on a keyboard

Tip 1: Simplify Shopping

Back and leg pain, including sciatica, may make managing the mall difficult if not downright impossible during this busy shopping season. Why not pick up gift cards from your local drugstore or grocery store? You’ll be letting your family, and friends pick out items they truly want, while avoiding lifting and carry heavy shopping bags.

If you do want to buy personalized gifts, shop online. You can have the gifts shipped straight to your loved ones and friends, and avoid long lines at the post office. Alternatively, have online purchases gift-wrapped and delivered to you, so you can hand them to friends and family in person.

While you’re at your computer, consider adding some holiday cheer to others by donating online. Check Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) to look up charities by location and area of interest, and see their ratings.

Tip 2: Plan Ahead Before Cooking

Having a big crowd over? Prepare as much as you can ahead of time. For instance, pies can be done the day before, and you can chop onions and celery for stuffing days in advance.

Before you start cooking, take a look at your kitchen. Is there a place you can sit while chopping? If not, why not use the living room for some tasks like snapping green beans? If you are using a high counter top, lean on it often for 10 to 15 seconds at a time to take some pressure off your back. Don’t get stuck in any one position for too long. If you forget, set your timer to remind you to sit down, rest, or stand up. At the meal itself, let your guests assist you with serving and clean up so don’t put too much stress on your body.

Tip 3: Making Decorating a Group Activity

Don’t try decorating by yourself. This is especially important when you’re moving heavy or cumbersome objects or putting up the Christmas tree. Get someone to help you, so one person can hand lights and ornaments to the other person to hang. This way, you’ll avoid repetitive reaching or twisting in a way that adds stress to your back.

Tip 4: Take Care of Yourself

The holidays can be so busy that you may be tempted to give up on your regular eating and exercise routine. Don’t do it—you need to strengthen and stretch your body with exercise no matter how hectic things get. Stretching can help you stay limber and reduce your risk of back or neck strain. If you don’t have time for your regular exercise routine, don’t give it up altogether. Try breaking exercise up into smaller chunks of time throughout the day.

Continue to eat regular, healthy meals. Gaining weight can make back pain worse. Keeping on track with healthy eating isn’t always easy during the holidays, so have some strategies in place before you start the round of holiday parties.

For example:

  • On the day you’re going to a party, eat breakfast to prevent overeating later in the day.
  • Once you’re at the party, fill up your plate with low-calorie foods such as vegetables, leafy green salads and lean proteins.
  • Don’t stand within arm’s reach of munchies like nuts, chips or M&Ms.
  • If you want a high-calorie food, take only a little—enough to taste but not overdo it.
  • If you’re going to indulge yourself, choose something you don’t usually eat, like a piece of your aunt’s special pie that you only get to taste once a year.

Tip 5: Look Ahead to 2016

As you look ahead to the coming year, consider simple ways to improve your back or neck pain. It can be as easy as setting a goal to add a 5- to 15-minute walking break to your day. You can sign up for that yoga class you’ve been thinking about. Alternatively, maybe this is the year to finally replace that old mattress.

It’s been an eventful and sometimes tumultuous year, but there is so much we can be thankful for. As 2015 comes to a close, we wish you a happy, healthy and relaxing new year.

To learn about Dr. Traynelis' practice, click here.

Updated on: 10/20/16
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