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Bumps, bruises and backaches -- health hazards of holidays

December 25, 1998
Web posted at: 2:57 p.m. EDT (1857 GMT)

(CNN) -- The activities of a bustling holiday season -- carrying gift-laden shopping bags, hanging strings of icicle lights on the eaves, shoveling snowy sidewalks -- can leave holiday revelers with a few aches, pains and strains.

"We typically see a substantial increase in the number of back, shoulder and neck injuries during the holiday season," said physical therapist William Boissonnault, president of American Physical Therapy Association's Orthopaedic Section.

"People who travel for the holidays are especially at risk. Lifting heavy suitcases, wresting with presents, and then sitting in a plane or car for hours can lead to serious back and neck pain."

To promote safety and mishap avoidance, the association has released a top ten list of precautions to prevent common holiday injuries.

Top Ten Ways to Prevent Holidays Injuries
  1. Before lifting heavy packages or luggage, test their weight by pushing them with your feet. If they seem too heavy, take smaller loads which are less likely to strain the back and will be easier on arm and shoulder muscles.
  2. To lift, keep feet shoulder-width apart and bend at the knees.
  3. Keep the lower back in its normal arched position and bring the load as close to the body as possible.
  4. Lift with the legs, not the back.
  5. Continue exercising regularly. Regular exercising and stretching keeps muscles limber while decreasing stress.
  6. Maintain your balance by distributing weight of shopping bags equally on both sides of your body.
  7. Consider using a backpack to carry smaller packages, and be sure to put both arms through the straps and keep your back straight. This method places the weight on the buttocks, not the shoulders.
  8. Wear comfortable shoes when shopping, preferably walking or jogging shoes. Many ankle and foot injuries occur from wearing high heels on hard surfaces while carrying packages.
  9. Avoid over-eating.
  10. If an injury should occur, don't ignore it. Seek professional consultation from a licensed physical therapist. Even a minor back injury could progress into a chronic condition.
From: The American Physical Therapy Association

The APTA notes that those who are not physically active year-round may overexert themselves during special activities (think hauling in the yearly evergreen tree). To gear up for holiday happenings, the association recommends weight control as one of the best measures to prevent against painful injury. It also promotes regular exercise, stretching and using common sense.

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