Tips to Avoid Back Pain at Holiday Time

by HSS on the Move
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Drs. Peter Moley and Alice Chen, both physiatrists at the HSS Affiliated Physicians Office in Greenwich, Conn. (HSS.edu/CT), see a large increase in patients suffering from back pain around the holidays. It often gets worse this time of year, and the doctors point to a number of reasons. “Stress tends to make back pain worse,” according to Dr. Chen. Research shows that emotional stress or mental pain can turn into physical pain. Depression and stress deplete certain brain chemicals that play a role in controlling pain. When these chemicals are diminished, pain gets worse.

Drs. Chen and Moley have the following tips to maintain spine health and enjoy the holidays pain-free:

  • Put things in perspective.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough rest.
  • If a package is heavy, ask for help. If you do lift, remember to bend from the KNEES.
  • Slow down and take breaks. Don’t overdo it.
  • Stay focused on the task at hand and be mindful to avoid an accident.
  • Don’t forget to do your exercises and stretching during the holiday season.
  • Don’t say “I don’t have time to attend to my pain.” Don’t ignore initial symptoms.

If you do develop back pain, the doctors advise resting for two days and taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen after consulting with your physician. If the pain is not better in two days, or if you have sharp, excruciating pain that radiates down your leg, see a doctor. Dr. Moley says, “When you see a physician, the doctor should spend ample time with you, taking a good medical history, performing a physical exam and ordering appropriate diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, to get to the root of the problem and prescribe the best individualized treatment plan.”

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The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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