Tips to prevent holiday-related back pain and strain

“If you’re trying to do things too quickly, then you’re not taking into account the ergonomics and how to take better care of your back,” said Dr. Yash Mehta of the Virginia Spine Institute. (Courtesy Virginia Spine Institute)

The holiday season can be stressful on more than your mind.

Emotional stress can be bad for your back, too, according to a Northern Virginia sports medicine doctor who has tips to help.



Routines such as unpacking decorations, putting up lights, wrapping and moving presents and making meals only add to opportunities for people to throw out their backs.

“If you’re trying to do things too quickly, then you’re not taking into account the ergonomics and how to take better care of your back,” said Dr. Yash Mehta of the Virginia Spine Institute.

Some thoughts he believes are worth reflecting upon: “Am I making sure that I have the proper technique? Am I keeping the objects closer to my body versus away from my body? Am I lifting with my knees? Or am I lifting with my back?”

Here are some ways to avoid bending, twisting and reaching as you get ready for the holidays.

  • Keep your arms at 90 degrees when carrying items such as groceries or baking trays.
  • When carrying packages or heavy items such as a gallon of milk, keep them close to your body.
  • When picking up heavy items, squat down and use the strength of your legs versus your back.
  • Move your feet to swivel your entire body instead of turning and twisting.
  • When pulling something heavy off a shelf, use a step stool or chair. Don’t reach high over your head.
  • When repeatedly checking food in a low oven, go down on one knee to kneel down instead of bending over.

“A couple of these adjustments only take an added few seconds. And I think we often feel that we don’t have those couple extra seconds. But the alternative is — if you throw out your back, now you can’t enjoy the rest of the weekend with your family,” Mehta said.

Mehta also recommends doing whatever works for you to reduce stress.

“Stress can also cause the muscle muscles to tighten and put your back and your whole body in not the best zen mode, and set you up for some issues down the road,” Mehta said.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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