Many face the end of October with a fair amount of trepidation: Halloween is the unofficial start of the holiday season and the next two months come with a flurry of checklists, errands, social events, family gatherings and—truth be told—stress. If you’re like many women during holiday time, you’ll likely get less sleep, less “you time” and more than a few extra calories. But something you might not bargain for is an unexpected back injury. Yet the Centers for Disease Control report nearly 5,800 people suffer holiday-related injuries each year. So here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare for the most wonderful time of year.
Don’t Shop ‘Til You Drop
If you plan to hit up Black Friday sales or you just like to get all of your shopping done in one marathon of a day, be kind to your body. Wear comfortable, supportive shoes to help you go the distance with good posture. We also recommend carrying your gifts in more and smaller bags with the heaviest items on the bottom, rather than in one or two large ones. This way, you can better distribute the weight of your purchases in each hand and avoid a back strain.
If you can, make several trips back to your car to unload. Or better yet, try doing some of your shopping online to save your lower back and legs. Just keep in mind that good ergonomics are just as important when you’re surfing the internet. Keep your elbows close to your side and supported by armrests, make sure the top of your screen is at eye level, and sit in a chair with good back support and a height that allows your feet to remain flat on the floor.
And when those boxes arrive at your doorstep? Please use proper lifting techniques, bending at the knees, to carry them inside. Better yet, unload them one item at a time right where the box has been dropped off. That will save you the risk of lifting unnecessarily heavy boxes off the ground.
Wrap in Comfort
‘Tis the season of giving, but don’t give yourself a backache in the process of all that generosity. If you have several presents to wrap, sprawling out on the floor can lead to stiff hips and a back that aches from hunching and twisting for too long. Instead, set up a wrapping station with a table and chair for better back support.
Trim the Tree and Your Home with Care
If your holiday celebration includes a Christmas tree and/or outdoor lights, don’t attempt decorating solo. Many people suffer injuries from falling off a ladder or twisting incorrectly to grab an item that is out of reach. And the more you go up and down the ladder to grab what you need, the more chances there are for a misstep that lands you in pain—or worse, in the hospital. Instead, work with a partner so one person can stay firmly planted on the ground and the other can maintain proper footing on the ladder. The person on the ground can handoff decorations and help pass things around the tree. Bonus: four hands are better than two and should make for quicker work so you can enjoy the beauty you’ve created sooner.
If you have to face the crowds at the airport this season, be sure to pack with your back in mind. To start: choose a suitcase that is lightweight and has rollers; preferably the kind that are multi-directional so you can easily push your suitcase through the airport halls rather than drag it behind you, or worse, carry it.
Next, try your best not to over-pack. Though airlines have tightened restrictions on the number of bags you can check without a fee, don’t overload one suitcase with your entire winter wardrobe. If you simply must bring a lot of clothing, split the load into two smaller suitcases and fork out the fee for the extra checked bag. It’s better to pay a little extra so you can evenly distribute the weight of your belongings rather than overload one case and run the risk of straining your back while trying to lift it off the baggage claim carousel. And remember that advice I mentioned before: bend and lift with the knees.
The holidays are busy enough without adding an unexpected injury to the mix, so take heed and take care of your body. By maintaining an exercise routine (wherever you can fit it in), you’ll not only have an outlet for the higher stress level, but your body will be able to better withstand the out-of-the-ordinary activities that come with spreading holiday cheer.