Combine holiday shopping with activity modification

Those with chronic back pain often find their holiday shopping interrupted by escalating pain. By modifying some activities, shopping no longer has to be a task to avoid or suffer through. Those are recommendations of some pain prevention and management strategies to consider while shopping this holiday season:

  •       Pace shopping trips by spreading over many days and keeping trips to a tolerable duration. Remember, the longer you shop, the longer the recovery period. Avoid shopping if you are already fatigued from a day of work or other activities. Even though it may seem convenient to hit some stores on your way home, fatigue and tension are often precursors to pain. It would be better to go home and rest for awhile before going out to shop.
  •    Wear comfortable clothing. Dress warm enough as cold temperatures tend to make muscles tense and fatigue easily, but choose lighter weight clothing as heavier material will increase the weight you carry around.
  •     Wear appropriate shoes such as walking/athletic shoes which provide good support and shock absorption, thereby reducing stress on legs and spine. Avoid wearing high heels as they can cause postural imbalance of the spine, as well as increase tension of the back and legs muscles. These shoes also present a higher risk of injury by tripping and falling.
  •        If bringing a personal bag, consider using a small, lightweight waist pack or a “healthy back bag” which is designed to evenly distribute weight and prevent compensatory leaning that is common when using a heavier or conventional style bag. Also remove non-essential items that add unnecessary weight.
  •          Use a shopping cart when available. Loading your arms full or even using a basket can place an uncomfortable load on your back and is awkward to carry.
  •        If carrying multiple shopping bags, try to distribute the load evenly in both hands and carry bags by your sides. For carrying objects in front of your body, keep the load close to your body and centered in the “safety zone” of upper thigh to lower chest level.
  •        Take frequent breaks to rest such as sitting for at least a few minutes every hour. During periods of prolonged standing, propping one foot on a low object such as a shelf or the bottom rack of a cart can relieve back and leg tension. You may also ease back fatigue by resting your backside against a wall or counter.
  •        Be aware of your posture-“Think Tall” and avoid locking your knees. Balance posture by aligning ears, shoulders, hips and knees, as well as keeping your weight centered on your feet.
  •       Use balanced body mechanics-bending from hips and knees instead of back when lifting and reaching, pivoting instead of twisting, shifting weight closer to objects instead of leaning.
  •       Breathing is also beneficial for managing pain and promoting relaxation-take in long deep breaths from the abdomen expanding your ribs all the way around, exhale while drawing navel in toward spine.
*Most of all, Listen to Your Body! If you need a break to rest, take it. If fatigue or pain is progressively worsening, it probably is time to head home. Learn to Control Pain so you can enjoy shopping for the holidays!

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