Holiday hacks for chronic back pain

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Nov 14, 2017, 4:24 PM | Updated: Nov 16, 2017, 12:00 am


For people with chronic back pain, the added stress of accomplishing a holiday to-do list can overshadow the pleasure of the season.

Holiday decorating mishaps may be funny in the movies but thousands of people sustain holiday-related back injuries and many of those injuries can be prevented with a few simple solutions.

Here are a few simple hacks for a pain-free holiday season:

Outdoor decorating

A well-decorated house around the holidays looks festive and brings good cheer. However, the process of decorating can be stressful and even lead to injury.

While fire hazards are the biggest safety concern for holiday-related accidents, climbing and falling from ladders is not far behind.

People who are already prone to back injuries should take extra precaution when it comes to being on a ladder or decorating in high places. Core strength and stability are often accompanied with back injuries and can make balancing on ladders even more of a challenge.

Using things like ladder stabilizers and levelers can provide better security and more confidence when moving up and down.

According to Ladder Safety Hub, OSHA believes 100 percent of all ladder incidents could be prevented with proper use and training. So before you break out the decorations, take a few minutes to check the safety specs on your ladder. And, as simple as it sounds, following instructions is the best way to stay safe.

Beyond the obvious of ensuring all rungs are secure and dry, make sure you have the right ladder for the job. Trying to use a step ladder when you need an extension ladder can lead to unnecessary injuries. People also have a tendency to lean step ladders up against the wall which can result in slippage.

Simple hack: Pre-planning your decorations will ensure minimal time on the ladder. Pre-measuring for electrical outlets, using light clips and having an extra set of hands will make things easier for sure. Try using a hanging pole when hanging lights in trees instead of a ladder.

Heavy lifting

Decorations, shopping bags, packages and retrieving boxes from storage: Some heavy lifting is inevitable during the holidays.

For people with existing back pain, this can make things worse.

Many people often forego their usual exercise routines during the holidays and that’s a big mistake. Skipping workouts can lead to weak, tight muscles making the risk of heavy lifting injuries even worse. Keep exercise routines consistent and remember to stretch before activities such as decorating and shopping.

Some exercises can actually relieve symptoms of sciatic pain, so make sure to stay active, even if it’s taking 15 minute breaks to stay loose.

Don’t risk straining your back so you can get something finished quickly. Rushing into a job before you can assess what is needed is tempting, but could ultimately result in unnecessary injuries.

Refresh your memory on using the proper heavy lifting techniques such as lifting with your legs, not your back. Ask for help with awkward objects even if they aren’t heavy.

If something is really too heavy, don’t be afraid to hire some help. The extra money spent will be worth it if it keeps you pain free.

Simple hack:  Keeping strap handles handy for large objects ( and even smaller ones for shopping ) can make it easy to distribute weight evenly and properly.

When packing suitcases, consider packing two small bags instead of one large bag to reduce back pain and strain when you carry luggage.

Extended travel, poor sleeping accommodations

Winter holidays and Fridays in the summer are some of the busiest times in airports. Whether your holiday plans include travel by plane or by car, chances are you may end up sitting for long periods of time.

In a previous article on pain-free travel, we talked about pre-travel treatments, warm and cold relief, and controlling foods that cause inflammation.

Simple hack: When traveling for extended periods, try using a rolled up towel for lumbar support instead of a pillow. The towel allows flexibility to roll or fold to the appropriate support needed. Consider using contoured travel pillows for long flights and car trips. Many are ergonomically designed for neck support and side sleeping.

Above all, don’t let pain steal the joy from your holiday season. If you find yourself with back pain, get professional help to determine your next plan of action and get back to doing the things you love.

Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.



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Holiday hacks for chronic back pain