The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


Back Health for the Holidays


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 trigger point injection can also provide fast relief.

Non-surgical Treatments Can Give Fast Relief

For severe leg pain, epidural injections, 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.

More Information

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 medical topic. 



The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.

Copyright © 2007, Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group. All rights are reserved.  No part of this web site may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored, electronically or on paper, without the written permission of the Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc.
Last modified: 07/27/08