Physical therapists offer tips to relieve pain related to holiday shopping and baking
ALEXANDRIA, VA, December 15, 2009 — To most of us
the holiday season is all about tradition, fun, and family, but if we're
not careful, the holidays can also be a pain in the
neck—literally—says the American Physical Therapy
Association (APTA). Typical holiday activities, such as shopping "till
you drop," lifting heavy boxes and presents, and countless hours of
cooking and baking, can cause muscles to work harder than usual, many
times resulting in neck, shoulder, and back pain.
This holiday season APTA recommends taking precautions—from
distributing the weight of shopping bags equally on both sides of your
body to lifting boxes carefully—in order to keeps aches and
injuries at bay.
"The added demands of the holidays stresses the body, which may
increase the risk of injuries related to the extra activities," says
APTA spokesperson and physical therapist E. Anne Reicherter, PT, DPT,
PhD. "Using proper body mechanics can help prevent muscle and joint
discomfort this holiday season."
- Test an object's weight before attempting to lift heavy packages or
luggage. Try pushing it with your foot. If it seems too heavy then take
smaller loads, which are less likely to strain your back and are easier
on arm and shoulder muscles.
- Keep the load close to your body when lifting.
- Ask for help or use an assistive device to lift heavy objects.
- Seek help from a physical therapist if your back pain lasts more
than a few days or gets worse.
Shopping Without Dropping
- Distribute the weight of shopping bags equally on both sides of your
- Consider carrying a small backpack rather than a heavy purse.
- Wear comfortable shoes; carrying packages while wearing high heels
on hard surfaces can contribute to foot and ankle injuries.
- Don't carry overstuffed shopping bags for extended periods.
- Consider using a shopping cart or getting help to carry packages to
- Make frequent trips to the car to drop off purchases.
- Avoid prime shopping times to decrease wait times that can increase
or exceed standing/walking time tolerances.
- Plan your shopping trip ahead of time. Having a set list of gifts
you intend to buy will help you plan for extra help, if needed, to carry
- Choose a work surface that is approximately at the level of your
forearms when your elbows are bent at a right angle (90 degrees) or at
elbow height. Shoulders and upper back will be in better position and
this will decrease the risk of upper back, neck, and shoulder
- Work on a padded surface. If you have tile, vinyl, or wood
flooring, for cushioning consider purchasing an inexpensive area
rug that has grippers on the back to keep the rug from moving and
you from slipping or tripping. Standing long periods on a hard surface
can lead to muscle fatigue and back ache.
- Use good lifting mechanics when retrieving small kitchen appliances
from lower shelves or drawers. Kneel down if necessary and keep the
object close to your body.
- Be careful when bending to take items in and out of a conventional
- Frequently perform gentle movement exercises to keep the muscles in
your neck and shoulders loose.
A full list of tips on ways to prevent holiday-induced neck,
shoulder, and back injuries, including some photos demonstrating proper
lifting and carrying techniques can be found in the "consumer tips"
section of APTA's consumer Web site, www.moveforwardpt.com.
Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care
professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore
mobility - in many cases without expensive surgery or the side effects
of prescription medications. APTA represents approximately 76,000
physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of
physical therapy nationwide. Its purpose is to improve the health and
quality of life of individuals through the advancement of physical
therapist practice, education, and research.In most states, patients can
make an appointment directly with a physical therapist, without a
physician referral. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can
treat and find a physical therapist in your area at www.moveforwardpt.com.