Everyone knows that the holidays may be hazardous to your waistline.
They may also be bad for your back. There are a few simple things that you
should do to decrease the chance of injuring your back this winter. There
are also some simple things to do if your back is already hurting.
Weight management is (unfortunately) critical in preventing back
problems. Whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years, the holidays
are celebrated with lots of food. If you are hosting an affair, try to
have at least a few healthy dishes. There are many regret-free recipes
available on the Internet.
The chance of suffering a back injury is increased with alcohol. A
drink or two will decrease your coordination and your ability to protect
your back. If you are a little tipsy, or just plain tired, don’t do any
heavy work. Save the cleanup till the next morning.
Know Your Limits and Lift Properly
When shopping, use a cart or a wheeled backpack. Heavy totes should be
carried with the strap over the neck and one shoulder. Balance your load
by holding a small bag in each arm rather than one big sack. Lift properly
with the knees but not your back. Make several trips to carry in the
packages instead of trying to lug one big load. If you cut your own
Christmas tree, think about lying on your side when sawing, rather than
working bent over. Get help carrying your tree. If you need to do heavy
cleaning for the holidays, consider asking your family to hire a
housecleaner as one of your gifts.
People often hurt their backs when rushing. When people rush, they
forget to protect the low back. The holiday season is one of the most
stressful and rushed times of the year. Plan extra time for shopping and
limit errands to those most essential. Take time out for yourself. Reserve
a few minutes to relax, read, or enjoy a hobby.
When shopping, be considerate of other people’s backs. For older
adults, select gifts that are not heavy or awkward. For people with
arthritis, choose gifts that do not require assembly. A back massage may
be a welcome gift for someone with a bad back.
Ninety percent of people with back pain will recover without surgery
and within about six weeks. If your back hurts, avoid bending, stooping,
and lifting. Bed rest, however, slows healing. Over-the-counter
nonsteroidals (like Motrin) may help if the pain is not severe. Be
cautions with your medications. Vioxx was recently removed from the market
because of dangerous side effects. Celebrex and Bextra are very similar to
Vioxx, might cause similar problems, and should probably be used only if
you have no other options. If the pain is severe, or does not improve
quickly, see your doctor. He can give you stronger nonsteroidals, muscle
relaxants, pain medications, or other medications for specific types of
pain. Your doctor can also give advice regarding body mechanics (how to
bend and lift). He can help you plan a good exercise routine. Acupuncture
can relieve pain. A TENS unit nerve stimulator or a
injection can also provide fast relief.
Non-surgical Treatments Can Give Fast Relief
For severe leg pain,
nerve blocks, and other shots
may relieve symptoms within hours. The pain injections do not involve
addictive or dangerous drugs. They are safe, fast, and nearly painless. If
medications don’t work, one of these shots may be enough to get you
through the holidays.
Disc surgery is used to treat sciatica from a
pinched nerve. It is
recommended only when everything else fails. The disc can be repaired
using minimally-invasive or laser techniques. Disc surgery is now a
thirty-minute outpatient procedure and may allow you to return to work in
just a few weeks. Disc replacement surgery, with bone or an artificial
disc, is only for severe midline back pain from fractures, degenerative
disease, or instability. It is very rarely required.
Neurosurgeons are doctors who specialize in the spine and brain. They
have completed medical school, internship, six years of residency and
often additional fellowship training. They care for most back problems.
If You Have Back Problems See A Neurosurgeon
There are also good sources for information on the Internet. For more holiday tips, the best site we’ve found is the
public information page from the State of New Jersey. Waist conscious
recipes are available on numerous web sites found with the key words
“holiday” and “food.” The
National Library of Medicine site provides information on almost every