Anderson: Stay safe this holiday season with these tips
It’s the time of year when leaf raking, yard cleanup and stress from holiday shopping takes its toll on the body. People fail to realize the muscle strength and endurance required for winter activities.
It’s no surprise that the number of injuries that arise from fall yard cleanup or snow shoveling keep physical therapists busy. From back pain to chronic neck pain, lack of fitness and poor posture are often the culprits of injuries. Many people spend a day in the yard doing strenuous activity yet they haven’t done anything to adequately prepare their body.
Physical therapists Brad Perry and Carrie Hockinson from Athletico in Naperville offer these safety tips to help you stay healthy, strong and injury-free during the winter months.
Warm up your muscles before you begin raking to decrease risk of injury. Taking a short, 5- to 10-minute walk around your neighborhood will warm up your muscles to get you ready for raking.
Check the height of your rake. Make sure the rake is tall enough for you so that you do not have to bend too far forward.
Consider investing in a tool such as a leaf blower that allows you to pick up or move the leaves without bending at all.
Try to remain in an upright position and bend through your hips and knees, not your back. Avoid twisting your back by making sure you are not twisting your spine while your feet are planted on the ground. Pulling the rake directly toward your body and not to the side ensures that you are minimizing the twisting through your spine.
If you must bend down to pick up the leaves for bagging, make sure you are bending at your knees, not through your spine.
Warm up your muscles with some light movement before shoveling. This can be walking for a few minutes, marching in place or doing arm circles.
Use a smaller shovel so you are not lifting as much at one time. Plastic shovels will weigh less than metal shovels and reduce your overall load. Also, make sure the handle is long enough to avoid bending forward too much. “Goose neck” shovels are also known to reduce stress on the back and legs by requiring less bending.
Avoid throwing the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This twisting motion can cause excess strain on the back and lead to injury. Instead, toss the snow directly forward. When possible, push the snow instead of lifting it.
Overcoming holiday stress
Get a massage! Take an hour and let someone else release your stress-fighting hormones while you forget about your holiday to-do list.
With all of the shopping and chores to be done, your feet take a beating. Try wearing supportive shoes/slippers, or purchase gel pad shoe inserts so your feet aren’t so fatigued by the end of the day.
Don’t try to do too much at once. Prioritize, and take breaks to avoid exhaustion and injury. Do a gentle stretch of your neck and arm muscles to recharge and stay limber.
Consider bringing a fold-up shopping cart so you can load up your gifts and wheel them around. If a cart isn’t an option, be sure to distribute the weight evenly between arms.
When taking groceries or gifts out of your car, don’t bend from your lower back. Instead, remember to keep your back straight and bend at the waist to reach into your trunk or back seat.
Forget the big, heavy, satchel-style purses. Bring only what you need to make your purchases.
When placing decorations high, use a sturdy ladder that makes you feel balanced. Never step on the top or highest step of a ladder. Also, have someone else hold the ladder and spot you to prevent a potential fall.
If you’re putting up a tree or other large decoration, bend with your back straight and lift with your legs. Whenever possible, enlist someone else to help lighten the load.
Although decorating for the holidays is fun, try not to rush through it — being in a hurry can cause trips and falls, which can lead to unnecessary injuries. Take your time and enjoy the process, there’s no need to hustle!
You’re ready to engage in the holidays without having to sit them out because of injury. Here’s to healthy holidays!