Avoiding back injuries over the holidays

Mason Timm

December 10, 2021

Make your family do the heavy lifting

It might be the happiest time of the year, but the holidays are also a stressful time. Many theories talk about how stress can cause back pain, given the release of cortisol and adrenaline, and the involuntary tightening of muscles in the neck and shoulder area. Often the tension in the area leads to lower back pain. However, there are activities we all do in the winter that might cause back problems, too.

Things to be careful with

If you are prone to back injuries and pain, here are a few things you should have in mind this winter season.

Cold weather and stiff muscles

Cold weather can lead to a particular discomfort in your body, mostly because of the human go-to solution when they’re cold – stiffening your muscles. This doesn’t help in any way, nor will you get warmer when you do it.  So, whenever you notice your body stiffening, try focusing on relaxing it. Heat therapy can often help loosen the stiffness so consider applying a heating pad to the painful area, layer up when outside and, if you have the possibility, swim in a heated pool.

Travelling

Even though the thought of travelling sounds relaxing, the reality can sometimes be painful. It is not unusual for your neck to stiffen or your back to start hurting, especially if you’re travelling for hours. If you’re thinking of travelling this holiday season and visiting your loved ones, make sure to bring a small pillow for your lower back and a neck pillow. Stretch your shoulders and your neck, and if you’re driving – try making a stop now and then to stretch your legs.

Snow shoveling

Living in Ottawa means shovelling snow in the winter, and that cannot be avoided. It is crucial to keep your back in mind while you’re cleaning out the driveway. When shovelling snow, try using these tips:

  • Lift with your legs
  • Don’t twist and throw the snow – instead carry it where you want it to be
  • Less snow at a time – less back pain
  • Take breaks and swap the side you’re using to shovel

Gift wrapping on the floor

Yes, you might think gift wrapping isn’t dangerous, but it can be, believe it or not! People often end up wrapping the gifts on the floor for hours, in terrible posture and bent over the gifts they’re wrapping. Avoid back pain and wrap your gifts on the table, taking breaks after each gift.

Putting up the tree

Putting up a heavy Christmas tree and stretching while hanging all the decorations in your house can also cause your back to ache. Use ladders and lift with your legs. Better yet, get your younger part of the family to do it!

Stress

As we mentioned above, stress can cause back pain. This is because when we get stressed, the body releases adrenaline which heightens blood pressure and causes the muscles to tense. The often called the “fight or flight” phenomenon causes us to be tense and alert in case we have to protect ourselves. The irony is, in this situation, we harm ourselves. Even though it sounds impossible, try avoiding stressful situations during this holiday season – don’t go last minute shopping, try and not get irritated when stuck in traffic and limit the time you spend around the grinches.

Four things that can prevent back injury

Better safe than sorry! The saying didn’t become popular without a reason. Here are some simple tips for keeping your back healthy and pain-free:

Avoid heavy lifting

This one is pretty obvious. Don’t overwork yourself. Of course, you want to get in the house as soon as possible and bring in all the groceries and cookie ingredients in one trip. But, you also want to enjoy the holidays on your own two feet and not tied to a bed not being able to move and being in pain. Okay, maybe this one was a bit dramatic, but if it works, we’re not sorry. Don’t do any heavy lifting, watch out with the amount of snow in your shovel and again: Lift.With.Your.Legs. And bend at your knees or hips. Doing that will keep your back straighter – your legs are much more strong than your back. While we’re at it – posture is important!

Watch your posture

Good posture is half of the work you have to put into to avoid back pain. Try not to slouch when sitting. Instead, sit up straight with your head up and shoulders back. If you can, keep your knees a bit higher than your hips and keep both feet flat on the floor.

Exercise at least 3 days a week

Physical activity helps make your back muscles stronger. That is important because it’s the muscles that keep the spine in place. With just a few simple exercises three times a week, you can easily avoid back pain.

Stretch

While sitting at work and trying to meet all the deadlines, it’s easy to forget to stand up and stretch. Try making a reminder to stretch for two minutes every hour. That should help loosen up your back and neck muscles and ultimately avoid back pain.

Take care of yourself

You can try all of this advice, but sometimes, all you need is a good night’s sleep to make all the pain go away. Don’t get overwhelmed this holiday season and forget to think about yourself. Have a day that would be all about you and your needs. A relaxing spa day always helps!

Massage therapy

There aren’t as many relaxing things in the world as massage therapy! It helps relieve the pain and relax your whole body. You can choose between different modalities and strengths of touch and create a massage therapy based on your needs. It can improve your sleep, relax your muscles and reduce stress. So, who is stopping you from treating yourself for a change?

Conclusion

Sometimes people are not aware of how many problems back pain can cause. Only after experiencing severe pain, do a lot of people come to realize that they should have paid more attention to their health. Sometimes, even if you take all the possible precautions, you experiencing back pain can still happen. Fortunately, there is always a solution. If none of this advice doesn’t help you might need a chiropractor or even physiotherapy. In that case, you can count on Elysian Wellness Centre. Our highly-trained team can provide you with a treatment that will suit your needs and help you maintain your physical health. Contact us today and say goodbye to back pain!

 

Mason Timm, Registered Massage Therapist

December 10, 2021

Mason is a proud registered massage therapist with the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario. Mason attended the massage therapy program at Algonquin College and graduated with Honours in 2018.