Jokingly, I mentioned to some of our patients for the past couple of weeks that the Christmas shopping season is good for our business. It increases patient volume because people frequently hurt themselves at this time of year. Shopping, walking across concrete floors, getting in and out of the car, putting heavy packages into trunks, assembling swing sets, cutting down just the right Christmas tree, leaning over the stove while cooking, etc., stresses our backs, shoulders, necks, hands, knees, and feet. Sitting for three hours at a time while watching football games can amplify back pain. Add to that the notion that we are usually in a hurry and crazed during the holiday, and we are all the more prone to injury.
Accordingly, it seems appropriate to talk some about some tips for staying out of trouble while assisting Santa. I'll make this snappy because you are likely already in a hurry to do something.
When you are lifting something from a shelf or shopping cart, use the largest muscles you have to perform the task. The larger the muscle or muscle group
used for lifting, the lower the stress placed on smaller, more vulnerable muscles. For example, some injuries happen when people try to lift something with one hand so that all the weight is on one side. Instead, use both hands, engaging both biceps and shoulders for the effort in a symmetric movement. If the package is in the back seat of your car, don't try to turn around and lift it with one hand. Wait until you are stopped and pick it up with both hands. Save that rotator cuff for golf, cooking, or helping your football team with a wave.
Keep your back straight when lifting something from the floor. Use the thigh muscles to lift, using both hands to steady the object. Move slowly and deliberately, as some injuries occur when an attempt is made to lift too fast in a jerking motion, even when the object is not heavy.
During any work activities, people should be able to comfortably assume a number of different postures and not remain in one position for an extended time. Muscles will fatigue and be more prone to injury when assuming a particular posture, especially a poor one (e.g., partially bent forward at the waist). So, if you are ringing bells for the Salvation Army, walk around the bucket as you greet folks. Motion is your friend.
Watch your diet during the holidays. This is tough, but too many carbohydrates can make you not only heavy, but also inflamed as a result of the changes in your blood chemistry. Joints and muscles may feel sore and stiff the day after overindulgence. Walking around can be painful, and even resisting gravity can be a chore when your body is in an inflammatory state. Whenever you see a tray full of goodies, remember that you are what you eat, or worse, you may feel like what you eat. If that is junk, you will feel like junk.
Many of us travel during the holidays. If you are driving long-distance, plan a rest stop every hour. When you stop, however, don't rest. Get up and move around. Walk around the car. Put your foot on the bumper and do a hurdler's stretch. Always stretch the other side, too, or you may walk in circles afterward.
When you reach your destination, you may be sleeping on a bed that is not yours. If it is too soft, look for something to slip under the mattress (like that large family portrait that you never liked) to make it firmer. If the mattress sags, you will have back pain the next day.
Enjoy the music of the season. The sounds evoke deep memories in your brain that may take you to a peaceful state of mind. I am personally very music-driven, although if I hear "Holly Jolly Christmas" one more time, I am taking a hostage.
Make a commitment yourself to pause and remember what Christmas is about. Spend some time alone in reflection. Personally, I like to build a fire in the fireplace and watch the lights on the tree. The investment of this time may help keep you grounded and less stressed. Sometimes during the holidays we run at such a pace that I wonder if Jesus Himself would be disappointed that we missed His birthday in all of the fracas. So, make time to take care of the most important part of you: your soul.
May you all have a safe and Merry Christmas.