Much like Andy Williams says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but achieving the perfect Christmas can take its toll on our bodies. To make sure back pain doesn’t get between you and the festive season, Marc Sanders from the British Chiropractic Association shares his tips and hacks on how to help keep Yuletide aches and pains at bay . . .
1 Shopping mania
“This coming weekend is set to be one of the busiest shopping moments of the year, but if you can order your presents online to be delivered to your house, this will save you carrying lots of bags around, which can easily cause strain – particularly in the shoulders. Just remember to take regular breaks rather than spending hours hunched over a laptop looking for the perfect gifts for your loved ones! If you do brave the shopping crowds, distribute the weight of the bags between both arms, or do your Christmas shopping in smaller chunks rather than one big, busy haul.”
2 Present and correct
“Repetitive activities such as wrapping lots of presents in a single sitting can put a lot of pressure on your body. To prevent this, take regular breaks and/or spread your wrapping across multiple sittings. Another good idea is to wrap your presents at different heights. For example, on the floor, sat at the table, or even standing over an ironing board, which is how I wrap my presents each year – it’s the perfect adjustable height.”
3 Deck the halls
“When decorating the Christmas tree, avoid straining your back by reaching for that awkwardly placed bauble in the corner or angel on top of the tree; use a stool or ladder to reach those harder to get to places, or enlist one of your little helpers to help. If you’re lifting heavy boxes of decorations, remember to bend both knees and stick your bottom out to use more muscles and make lifting easier. This also applies for taking the decorations down!”
4 Driving home for Christmas
“Every family has their own Christmas traditions; things they do year after year, to strengthen bonds, bring families and friends closer and create lasting memories. For many, this includes meeting up with distant relatives over the holidays. If you’re going on a long car journey to visit your relatives, make sure you take regular breaks to stretch your legs and relieve tension in your neck and back and share the driving if possible.”
5 Spick and span
“So onto the big day – you’ve done the cooking, enjoyed the meal and now it’s time to do the washing up. If you have a lot of pots and pans to clean after your Christmas dinner, standing with one foot on a small step in front of the sink, leaning against the sink, or opening the cupboard and placing one foot to rest in the cupboard can all help ease tension in your back. Many hands make light work – so if there’s a couple of friends or family to split the washing up, this is a great idea too!”
6 Christmas and chill
“New research from the University of Liverpool shows that sitting a lot over the Christmas period can have a significant impact on your physical health, affecting things like muscle strength. This doesn’t mean we all need to go out for a run every day during Crimbo limbo, but it is important to build some movement into your day. You should get up and move around every 30 minutes or so. Our backs are designed to move, and they let us know if we’ve been sitting for too long, so listen to your body. If you feel yourself starting to stiffen up, go for a short walk or perform some light stretches.
“Christmas isn’t Christmas for me without a couple of festive films – if you’re planning to sit back, relax and watch the classics with the family this festive season, get your posture right from the start. Try placing a small cushion between the small of your back and the back of the sofa to give you more support and avoid slumping for long periods. If I’m watching a Christmas musical, like White Christmas, my hack is to always stand up whilst they sing a song, joining in, too, of course!”
7 A merry little Christmas
“Christmas is both the most wonderful and stressful time of year. Above all else, don’t let the busyness get the best of you. Carve out time for yourself to relax, listen to mindfulness apps like Headspace or Calm, or sway along to Michael Bublé. My ‘me-time’ Christmas tradition is always doing a bit of yoga on Christmas Day morning – for me it’s the perfect way to get my body feeling great, before the unwrapping and festive feasting begins!”