Every year my front desk team ask me if we need to open the clinic over the festive season. And every year I tell them YES WE DO! Something strange happens during festive season and we are often so busy getting many acute phone calls both before and after Christmas looking for emergency care.
Why do so many hurt themselves around the festive season?
We continue to see people who have hurt their backs doing the most simple of all activities over Christmas, but often it is the atypical activities they get caught up in like climbing up to the loft and rooting round for the Christmas decorations and the Christmas tree base. All this Christmas paraphernalia gets dragged down the ladder often getting caught up on the way down and resulting in hurt backs. Why do we always store the decorations at the back of the loft behind the train sets or underneath the old worn coats!
Buying the tree, putting it in on top of the car, and dragging it home and in through the door can also be interesting and cause some added tension as well as just being physically difficult.
Making a fire can involve a chain of activities (chopping wood and carrying it into the house) that can strain the upper body and shoulder, especially if you are not used to it.
Most commonly we also see wrist and forearm pain from many hours of writing Christmas cards from our long and exhausting lists. They seem to have be to done all in ONE go, so you get it over with.
Repetitive or overuse strain is a word we often use for this kind of activity.
We can also see people with wrist and elbow pain from long shopping sessions and then carrying the shopping in their arms to a far away car park while dodging crowds.
Another usual cause of back and neck tension is the annual wrapping of the presents while sitting hunched over on the floor for …. maybe hours. Add to that a tired body and long hours at work and you have the recipe for a strained back. Yes it happens everywhere, every year!
Then we get to the cooking……we find that many of our patients have got worse after hours of standing in the kitchen preparing and cooking their Christmas food. They are in a hurry and are doing all the cooking in one go again and can literally stand upright for hours usually leaning forward over an oven.
The classic injury over the years have been preparing and cooking the turkey. Maneouvering it in an out of the oven can be both physically difficult but also scary as we are so worried about dropping it. The tension itself can make our shoulders go up towards out ears.
On the day itself, when all the food has been eaten we might then retire to the lounge and can end up sitting still for a long time curled up on soft sofas and armchairs with our legs tucked beneath us. This may cause back pain too, from the hours spend sitting and most importantly on unsupportive chairs.
It’s not all doom and gloom but Christmas is a particularly sensitive time when we feel everything has to be ‘just so’: our houses in perfect shimmering order and have everything just ready. Tensions can be rife and we are often tired from a long and dark autumn and working hard.
So what can we do?
Well, firstly maybe think about what you really want to do and who you would like to be with a this time of the year.
This can reduce the stress elements of needing to get everything tiptop shape as the right friends will accept you as you are.
Maybe ask everyone who is coming if they can help out and share the cooking, so you have less to worry about but this also allows them to help and feel that they are participating?
It might also be worth remembering the notion that a “good enough host” is often more relaxed and more fun than a “perfectionist host or hostess”. Ever heard that one?
Nobody cares about the dust really, they care about you.
And maybe it’s worth putting the Christmas decorations at an easier place than last year.
Try also to change your activities during the preparation time and give your body a stretch break if you do prolonged activities. The “cat and camel” stretch is great for this.
We migh have mentioned hat we have a great stretch app for this…
Christmas should be a time for joy, family and friendship and if the preparation time is shared and the expectations are reduced, then stress can be less of an important factor.
This in turn can to reduce the tension of your nervous system which so often can play a role in making the muscles more sensitive to injury.
In Sweden we have a word called “lagom” . This means just right; not too much or too little. We recommend you maybe think of this when yoo go into the festive season, both when you feel you need to do frantic tidying, Heston Blumental cooking sessions or pleasing everyone around you and forgetting yourself.
Time for you for you is also important and don forget, it is just one day of the year, friends and family are not just for Christmas……
Blessings from Luck’s Yard.