Don't Let the Holidays Become a Pain in the Back - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 19, 2014

Don't Let the Holidays Become a Pain in the Back

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Katrina Stier
(610) 447-6314
Katrina.Stier@crozer.org

In the midst of shopping, cooking, baking, traveling and partying for the holidays, back and neck pain can be prevalent.

To schedule an appointment with the
Comprehensive Pain Management Center,
please call 610-558-2770.

In the midst of shopping, cooking, baking, traveling and partying for the holidays, you are most certainly aware of the stress the season can cause. But did you know there is another threat to your health this season?

You might jokingly refer to the holiday season as a pain in the neck, but the reality is it literally can be – back injuries are pretty prevalent this time of the year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 50,000 people sustain some sort of winter-related back injury every year. And about 5,800 of those back injuries are holiday-related. People are carrying heavy packages, dragging and lifting suitcases and hanging decorations.

“Many people have pains from taking heavy roasts and turkeys out of the oven and trying to carry all of their bags from their car to their house in one trip,” said Cathy DiGregorio, M.D., the medical director of the Comprehensive Pain Management Centers at Brinton Lake and Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

Even wrapping presents can hurt.

“A lot of time around the holidays, people will feel pain between their shoulders from spending a lot of time wrapping presents, carrying heavy items from their cars to their houses – these are activities they’re not used to doing,” Dr. DiGregorio said. “Because it's cold out, people are taking every one of their bags on their arm all together – they’re not using good body mechanics because they’re in a hurry. Even trimming the tree or hanging lights are things that are out of their norm and can be difficult for their backs.”

On top of that, the holiday season can also mean icy and snowy weather, so people have slips and falls on ice and are shoveling snow, leading to back pain and injuries.

But just because back pain and injuries are a common holiday season occurrence, that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable.

“Take your time, make sure you get rest, ask for help and be aware of the fact that some of these things are heavier than you’re used to,” she said of avoiding pain and injuries this season.

This is especially important for those who already have known back problems.

“They are more prone to an injury and they need to protect themselves,” Dr. DiGregorio advised.

That means using common sense about the activity you’re engaging in, using proper lifting techniques, and if something you’re doing hurts, stop.

If you do experience an injury or pain, Dr. DiGregorio recommends trying heat and over-the-counter pain relievers.

“Muscular type injuries can take between two and four weeks to recover from. If it lasts more than two to four weeks, you should get help,” she said. Speaking to your doctor about persisting pain will allow him or her to put a recovery plan together for you, which may include medications, injections, physical therapy or referring you to a spine or pain specialist.

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