The holidays are about enjoying time with family and friends. From good tidings and cheer and everything in between, December is full month of living.
Let’s not forget decorating too — sometimes it’s half the fun of the season. Preparing the house for visitors is often the catalyst that allows us to get in the spirit, so to speak. And it’s often a source of some pretty painful injuries.
Knowing a little bit about the activities that are most likely to land you in trouble can be worth as much as all the presents underneath the tree depending on what injury you’re talking about, so read on to see some of the perils of holiday decorating.
Your rotator cuff is at a serious risk if you’re hoisting a tree over your shoulder and placing it on top of a car. The tree doesn’t have to be heavy — a 40-pounder can be 5 feet long easily, and a 5-foot tree becomes awkward very quickly. Do your shoulders a favor and have a second pair of hands nearby. Chances are you’re picking out a tree with someone else anyhow.
The dangers of the kitchen extend well beyond a hot stove. Repetitive strain injuries of the elbows, wrists and hands are all too common in the last calendar month of the year. From lifting heavy pans to tediously twisting prosciutto around scallops and asparagus, your arms are certainly at risk. Take breaks frequently and don’t be afraid to ask for help lest your arms become martyrs for the season.
A dry tree is an unhappy tree, but an unhappy back is even worse. Crouching and squatting to reach deep to the center of the tree is a formula for a lumbar disc injury. Next time you water, which may have to be every day depending on the heat in your house, try getting your entire body on the floor. Use a tall, skinny pitcher or something that pours easily but isn’t too heavy and it’ll lessen the load on your back.
Notoriously dangerous on any day of the year, ladders are atop the list in both severity and frequency of injury categories this holiday season. In the spirit of decorating, many people hang lights from trees, bushes and other high-up places. Achieving those tight-light lines often involves stretching while on the top rung which could lead to over-extension of your shoulder or worse — a fall. If you’re going to scale the ladder to decorate the highest heights, be safe and move the ladder so you’re directly under your target avoiding the unbalanced stretch at the top.
Know the contents of the package before you pick it up. As any child will tell you, a wrapped box retains all its secrets until it’s shaken or moved. This axiom is also true for adults. The square you’re about to lift could weigh more than fifty-pounds could be catastrophic to your back. Try moving it with your foot first — the ol’ kick-test has been saving backs for years.
Wear your comfortable shoes as often as you can. During the holidays, we tend to spend more time on our feet socializing and working around the house — especially so if you’re a woman. Unfortunately, the cutest shoes to match the outfit often have the poorest support and cushioning. But there’s no need to wear uncomfortable shoes all day long — put them on at the last second before guests arrive or right before you get out of the car to go into a party.
Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes “On the Mend” weekly. Questions may be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org