There’s no better time of year than the holiday season. Whether you’re decorating your porch for trick-or-treaters, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, hosting the family Christmas morning, or anything in between, there’s a lot of work that goes into these special moments. However, many of us get so caught up in a whirlwind of planning and preparation that we forget to practice proper body mechanics and are left feeling the aches and pains as a consequence. Here’s how you can prepare for the fun festivities ahead and not let pain ruin your holiday season.
Cleaning efforts around the house seem to magnify during the holiday season. Unfortunately, vacuuming is one of the most notorious culprits for causing back and shoulder pain. It’s a chore that can quickly cause your lower back to habitually bend forward and lead to intervertebral disc problems.
To protect your back, stand up tall while holding the vacuum in front of you. Instead of extending your arms forward to push the vacuum back and forth, keep your elbows in a locked position close to your body and walk with the vacuum.
To vacuum underneath furniture, simply kneel down in a stable position and use the hose attachments. Try breaking your vacuuming up into smaller sections or by room so you don’t overexert yourself. You’re far more likely to begin slouching the more fatigued you become.
When it comes to laundry, maintaining proper posture is key to preventing back and shoulder pain. For front-loading washers and dryers, kneel down or use a firm, stable chair to sit on while loading and unloading your clothes. Avoid over-extending and aggressive twisting motions, as these movements can be risky and even throw off your balance.
Break the loads into smaller, lighter weighing piles so they are easier to manage and won’t put excessive force on your back or neck. It’s important to place your laundry basket on a chair or table, preferably the same height as the laundry machines, to minimize the amount of bending and reaching.
Food is often a huge aspect of the holidays. You may be roasting a turkey, cooking your famous meatloaf, or even baking cookies for the neighbors. In an ideal world, you would be able to do all of your cooking without having to bend over or reach down low. Unfortunately, counter heights are not one-size-fits-all. It’s important to do your cooking and meal prepping at a height that is between your waist and shoulders.
If you are unable to reach your mixing bowl without bending over, use a sturdy step stool to raise yourself up. Likewise, you can raise the height of your workspace to waist level. Simply use a thick block cutting board or even a large book to bring the bowl closer to you.
The same principle can be applied to reaching into the sink for cleanup. Take two plastic tubs and place one upside down in the sink and the other on top of it. Not only will you avoid reaching down to the bottom of the sink, but you’ll be able to do all of your washing at a much more comfortable height.
When it comes to getting meals in and out of the oven, you’ll want to pay especially close attention to your posture. Stand directly in front of the oven and bend at the hips if needed. Bending at your hip protects your back by allowing it to stay straight, whereas bending at your waist will cause your back to round and lead to back and shoulder pain. Make sure to bend your knees as you’re moving your hips back so you utilize the larger muscles in your legs to move your body rather than relying on your low back muscles.
For heavier platters or Dutch ovens going into the oven, you’ll want to avoid excessive forward bending at the trunk. Instead, utilize the strength of your legs to perform a lunge or squat to do your heavy lifting. If you are unable to squat, try kneeling. You may also utilize a foam pad to kneel on to take some stress off your knees.
Make sure to avoid excessive twisting maneuvers when possible as well. Twisting maneuvers and reaching behind you puts significantly more stress on your back and increases your chance of having back pain.
Decorating your house can be a lot of work, and window decorations are no exception. Most windows are quite lengthy or have a furniture-filled obstacle course in their way and require you to be in compromising positions just to reach them. This can be strenuous on your back and shoulders, and can even cause strain or injury.
To protect your back, neck, and shoulders, it’s important to avoid working too high above your head. Take stringing lights, for instance. Instead of stretching out to reach more area, make several small, short movements to hang the cord. Take your time and keep your stomach muscles tight and your back straight. For hard-to-reach places, use a small step stool to raise your entire body closer to your destination.
The same principle applies to larger, heavier objects as well. The more bending over that is required for the job, the more important it is to use the right body mechanics. Setting up the Christmas tree, for example, can be an accident waiting to happen. Luckily, many artificial trees assemble in multiple pieces, making it easier to break the work into smaller, more manageable loads.
Consider using a chair to sit on while hanging the ornaments around the bottom half of the tree. When you are sitting on the chair, be sure to position yourself so that the weight of your body is supported through the seat, not some awkward position where your muscles have to hold you up. Use a raised platform or second chair to bring your boxes of decorations closer to you as well. A raised platform can help avoid any bending or twisting when you are decorating the tree or mantle.
Getting ready for the holiday season can be thoroughly enjoyable. Make sure to keep these posture tips in mind to prevent back and shoulder pain from slowing you down.