Keep the Holidays Bright by Staying Injury-Free!

Keep the Holidays Bright by Staying Injury-Free!

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s not just the crowds of shoppers that you’ll have to masterfully plan your way around. It’s also those common holiday-related aches and strains. Professional Physical Therapy wants to make sure you enjoy time spent with your loved ones and learn how to avoid these potential injuries. Here, Physical Therapist Rebecca Goldstein, DPT, gives tips to evade the most common injury-causing holiday scenarios.

You’re walking around the mall, carrying dozens of heavy, gift-filled bags. How do you avoid shoulder pain with so much to hold?

  • Now’s a great time to use your reusable grocery bags. Most of them have long handles, which are easily slung on a shoulder. Try to distribute the weight evenly by placing one on each shoulder, so you don’t overstress one side.
  • Use a backpack. Make sure to wear both straps, and secure them tightly so the weight is distributed evenly on both sides.
  • For anyone not able to hold the weight on their shoulders, it’s time to bring out a rolling bag! Make sure you can comfortably pull the bag without slumping or leaning to one side. This is the best alternative to carrying a bag on your shoulders.

You’re baking up a storm. Do you have any tips to keep back pain at bay?

  • Baking can include a lot of lifting and strain on your back. To lift from low places, first get low to protect your back. Get into a squatting position, place the item close to your body, and then lift it with both hands, hugging the item if possible. Then use your legs to propel yourself into a standing position. Never bend over from the hips when trying to reach for something low, especially if it’s heavy.
  • Baking includes a lot of mixing, kneading, and rolling. When you’re doing any of these tasks, make sure you’re in a comfortable position, whether it be sitting or standing. Always bring the items you need close to you, so you don’t have to reach far to get them.
  • Be sure to take frequent breaks to avoid repetitive movement injuries. If you feel your hands starting to cramp up, that’s a good indication that you need to hydrate, stretch, and take a break before you get back to work.
  • When mixing with a spoon, don’t grip the handle too tightly. If you’re using a spatula to take cookies off of a tray, keep a slight bend in your elbow so you use that and forearm muscles rather than your wrist.
  • By the time your treat is ready for the oven,  it may be very heavy. You don’t want to drop it or throw out your back out on the way to the oven. Slide the tray as close to the edge of the counter as possible, bend the knees slightly, brace your abdominal muscles, and use both arms to hold the sides of the tray. Keep the abs engaged as you walk over to the oven and, while in a squat position, push the tray into the oven. Remember to bend from the knees, not the hips. Don’t forget you can always ask for help! Four hands are better than two!

You’ve finished wrapping the gifts and the food is in the oven, but your house is still a mess. How can you stay injury-free while cleaning?

  • For those hard to reach spaces, make sure you squat down to the floor using your hips and knees, not bending over from your back. Better yet, sit down on the floor close to the area you’re trying to clean. You want to try to put the least amount of strain on your lower back as possible, so getting down low and close to the area is your best bet!
  • When trying to reach high areas, like the vanity or shower head, use a wide step stool. Don’t attempt to stand on the toilet seat or the edge of the bathtub, which can put you at risk for falls and muscle strains.
  • Lastly, remember to take breaks. Cleaning consists of a lot of repetitive motions, which can also lead to muscle fatigue and tendonitis. Take stretching breaks, switch positions, and try alternating between both hands to scrub that grime! Give yourself ample time to clean up, so you’re not rushing. If you’re in a hurry, be mindful of your posture, or you could slip or fall in your haste. Always take safety precautions when cleaning, so you can enjoy the festivities later!

Follow these safety tips so you can enjoy the holiday season injury-free with family and friends! If you do feel pain, be sure to contact a Physical Therapist at any of our 40 locations. Happy Holidays from the Professional family!