Most businesses have a seasonal shift in their volume. The lawn care industry is busier in warm weather. Painters are busier in dry weather. Retailers are busier at Christmas.
The health care industry has its own seasonal surges. For example, you will find a spike in certain kinds of depression during the winter months when the sun is less visible. The weight loss industry will be busier in January because many will make resolutions to remove the weight they gained during the holidays. Obstetricians will be busier a few months after a brutally cold winter.
In my practice, the Christmas season will bring more low back strains. People are rushing to shop. Getting into and out of a vehicle can be stressful on the structures of the pelvis and lumbar spine. As shoppers flock to stores and fight long lines and traffic, stress mounts, and with it muscle tone increases. People walk on hard concrete floors with improper arch supports until their feet ache, and the inevitable change in gait aggravates the knees, hips, and low back.
Heavy packages must be transported, so shoppers open trunks and lean improperly with those packages to load trunks or the back of an SUV. After multiple trips to different stores, shoppers eventually return home, where the daunting task of unloading the vehicle begins. The shopper tends over a cavernous trunk to lift various treasures until the trunk is empty and everything finds its way into the house.
There are preparations that must be accomplished. Cleaning and vacuuming will be done in case someone comes over to visit. There will be a lot of cooking with heavy foods and cookware, such as the turkey or the ham. Some dishes will be heavy because we are cooking for the extended family. Loving hands will reach across a stove and lift at awkward angles.
Decorations must be dug out of closets and storage rooms, dusted off, admired, and set out. Sometimes young parents assist Santa Claus with the assembly of swing sets, toys, and other items that may be sprawled along the floor or the ground. People bend, lift, twist, and strain until the work is done. Finally, one collapses in that chair that was comfortable just 12 years ago, but does not really fit or support any more.
Does this sound familiar? It is a very familiar scenario for many of our patients, and it is already underway.
Back pain is a universal human experience. It will affect 80% of us at some point in life and cause us to seek help with it. Some of these conditions are self-resolving within a few days. Others will require a little bit more intervention.
So what is a person to do? Well, here are a few tips to help you through the holiday with minimal orthopedic injuries.
Watch what you eat. We all tend to load up on calorie dense foods for the holidays, from eggnog to pecan pie to home-made bread. Pace yourself. You will feel better and enjoy the holiday more if you exercise some caution in what you give your body for fuel. A full tummy can be a miserable tummy.
Try to stay physically active in a routine that roughly matches what you do before and after the holidays. This keeps your circadian rhythms on schedule. Avoid staying up too late and staying in bed too long, as this will interrupt your body's routine.
Limit yourself on how much you will lift as you shop. Wear comfortable shoes with good arch supports. Rest when you need to sit down for a while. Stay hydrated without caffeine. Watch your body mechanics as you lift, pulling whatever you are lifting as close to the core of your body as possible, keeping your back straight and using your thighs to lift.
If you have small children at home, sit down and let them walk or crawl to you and then gently help them to your lap. Many young parents and grandparents take great delight in the newest generations of the family and lift them improperly for closer inspection. This leads to many back strains.
Get plenty of rest. Sleep on your side with a body pillow between your knees, and throw your upper arm over it to take the weight of your arm off your neck. Make sure your pillow is firm and the right height.
Use good sense with your consumption of alcohol. And, stop smoking, as there is no proper, healthy, or sensible use for tobacco at all under any circumstances.
Don't let your back pain get the best if you and steal your Christmas like a Grinch. Get the chiropractic care that you need so that you feel your best at this time of the year. Visit your massage therapist and treat yourself to that relaxing and therapeutic session. Don't wait for someone to give you a gift certificate. Just do it to take care of yourself, and you will appreciate yourself for doing it.
Have a very Merry Christmas, and a healthy one!