Deck The Halls, Don’t Wreck Your Back

Tis’ the season to deck the halls and every single year we hear stories of well meaning patients who stepped onto the ladder or the roof to ready their home for yuletide visitors only to spend part or all of the Holiday Season in the hospital or outpatient care.

1. Never Start Tired or Groggy

According to the Sleep Research Society (1), a lack of sleep is hypothesized to contribute to chronic pain. And common-sense tells us that a lack of attentiveness and situational awareness can result in injury.So by getting plenty of sleep the night before you plan to hang your Christmas lights, you can ensure your body, mind and spine are up to the task. This can help you to not only prevent injury but can reduce pain on the spine when you’re reaching and climbing on ladders to hang your lights. In addition to getting plenty of sleep before hanging Christmas lights, you should also rest fully after hanging them to allow yourself to recuperate.

2. Make It A Group Activity

If at all possible, wrangle some family or friends to hang Christmas lights and decorations. Seriously, folks: BUDDY SYSTEM! Not only can this make the task more fun and create some awesome memories, but it also allows the opportunity to take breaks when your spine pain is flaring up. When you are worried that a certain task may be too much for your back, ask for help. This can prevent any injuries to your spine and make hanging Christmas lights a bonding experience.

3. Position Your Ladder Correctly

According to The Houston Physician’s Hospital, “When using a ladder to hang your Christmas lights, make sure to position it properly. A ladder that is not angled correctly could lead to a fall that could injure your back and exacerbate your spine pain. According to the Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management Department at Stephen F. Austin State University, a ladder should be placed at a 75-degree angle against the side of your home to be used safely and avoid falls.”

4. Take Breaks and Stretch!

While you may feel as though you can’t wait to get your Christmas lights hung and ready to light up your house, it is important to take breaks. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (3) recommends taking frequent breaks from activity, such as hanging Christmas lights, if you suffer from pain, swelling, or stiffness in the joints. This is absolutely critical when your spine pain symptoms are bothering you, as continuing your activity could lead to injury or further pain symptoms. Another way to head this off at the pass is simple: stretch! Colder weather by itself can make you achy, tired and stiff. So loosen up first! Here’s a great full spine stretch for pain relief can be found at the website of the American Council on Exercise, it’s a funny name, but its called the “cat cow”. Check it out:

  • “Step 1- Starting Position: Kneel on an exercise mat or floor, positioning your knees and feet hip-width apart, with your feet dorsi-flexed (toes pointing towards your body).
  • Step 2- Slowly lean forward to place your hands on the mat, positioning them directly under your shoulders at shoulder-width with your hands facing forward. Reposition your hands and knees as necessary so that your knees are directly under your hips and hands are directly under your shoulders.
  • Step 3- Gently stiffen your core and abdominal muscles to position your spine in a neutral position, avoiding any sagging or arching.
  • Step 4 – Upward (Cat) Phase: Gently exhale and contract your abdominal muscles, pushing your spine upwards towards the ceiling and hold this position for 10 – 15 seconds. Allow your head to fall towards your chest, maintaining alignment with the spine.
  • Step 5 – Downward (Cow) Phase: Slowly relax and yield to the effects of gravity. Let your stomach fall towards the floor (increasing the arch in your low back) and allow your shoulder blades to fall together (move towards the spine). Hold this position for 10 – 15 seconds before returning to your starting position”

5. Stay Sober

This one would seem to be common sense: ladders, heights, electricity and alcohol don’t generally mix. But with outdoor decoration and hanging Christmas lights being such a strong American tradition, doing it while absolutely hammered is its unfortunate cousin. All joking aside though: Public Service Announcement, Don’t Drink and Drive and Don’t Drink and hang Christmas lights. Just sit down in a lawn chair and bark suggestions/orders at your non-drinking friends and relations.

Most importantly of all, if you suffer from chronic neck, back and shoulder pain Find your nearest Summa Pain Care location in Peoria, Phoenix or North Scottsdale today and don’t put this off any longer. Unaddressed chronic or severely acute back, neck and joint pain generally don’t improve and going through effort of hanging Christmas lights isn’t going to help either, unless you take some steps to deal with it. Call our Phoenix location at 623.580.4357 , you can reach Peoria at 623.776.8686 or contact us in North Scottsdale at 480.786.1771.

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