Be Careful Not to Shop ‘Til You Drop
December 16, 2005
By: Jean Johnson for Shoulder1
The pictures were plastered all over the front pages the day after Thanksgiving. They featured stampeding hoards rushing through the big double glass doors for chances at bargain holiday prices. Even those not out on that biggest shopping day of the year must admit to feeling the fever of the season to some degree – the almost inbred urge to shop and heft and tote and wrap.
American Physical Therapy Association
|Tips for treating your body well this holiday season:|
Consider a massage – even a mini shoulder and head massage offered at many malls is restorative and soothing.
Try a foaming oil bath now and then.
Bending and stretching in the shower can keep muscles toned and the body limber.
Take a deep breath and sigh audibly – it’s a magical time of year>
But the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) – a 66,000-member organization – has other holiday messages. Easy does it packing it in. Remember that the body is, in the last analysis, a fragile construction that needs respect.
“Family holiday activities such as ‘shop ‘til you drop,’ as well as lifting stacks of presents and heavy boxes deplete already overspent energy and can contribute to neck, shoulder, and back injuries,” noted an APTA statement. Echoing these cautionary remarks is association member Kendra Harrington, P.T., D.P.T, M.S., physical therapist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“During the holiday season we see a significant rise in patients who are experiencing back, shoulder and neck pain,” said Harrington. “Many have desk jobs and are fairly inactive most of the year. Rushing around and carrying too many things at once – and in the wrong way – places added stress on bodies which may increase the chance of injury.”
Staying in Shape Year Round
“Isn’t it the truth?” said Portland cyclist and yoga enthusiast, Anne Howard. “My only wish is that we as a society would spend less time on our duffs so holiday shopping and traveling wouldn’t be an issue.”
Howard has a desk job, but between her choice of transportation, her weekly yoga class and her strength training program that she pulls off in the span of 10 minutes a day, she feels as though she treats her body pretty well.
“I don’t always ride my bike, but on the days I drive, I try to get in some sort of cardio, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the ‘hood after dinner. And I suppose I could do more in the way of sit-ups and pushups and leg work, but my little workouts are manageable and seem to work for now.”
Thirty-five-year-old Howard says she also uses all the tricks to get as much walking in during the day as she can. She parks at the far end of the lot, uses the stairs and generally tries not to be too lazy.
Portlanders may be renowned for their bikes and books and microbrews, but the APTA offers a range of tips for others, who despite best intentions have bodies that need a little more pampering. More, APTA understands that even people like Howard who are in good shape have joints that need tending to if they are to last.
“Test an object’s weight before lifting it,” say the physical therapy experts. And for heavy packages or luggage, try pushing them with the foot to see if they are something you can easily carry. If things do look a little on the hefty side, “take smaller loads that are less likely to strain the back and easier on the arm and shoulder muscles.” Also, don’t hesitate to rent a cart if you’re at the airport. (The wheel is one of the world’s most revolutionary inventions, so we might as well use it.)
Then APTA has all the usual lifting tips we’ve heard a zillion times. “Keep the feet shoulder-width apart and bend the knees when lifting” so the big muscles in the thighs take the load instead of the more delicate spine and shoulder joints. Also, stay upright instead of leaning over the object in question. That for sure helps keep the strain off the lower back.
Then there are the more common sense ideas that society has somehow managed to forget in its haste to be fashionable. “Try not to carry a heavy purse,” states APTA. “Instead consider using a fanny pack or small backpack, using both straps on the backpack.” The association adds that good posture is in order here as well so that the hips, not the shoulders, take the load of the pack.
Also, steer clear of the land of the clip-clop shoes. Heels may be oh so fashionable, but wearing comfortable shoes is something men and women throughout the world do as a courtesy to themselves. “Many ankle and foot injuries occur from carrying packages while wearing high heels on hard surfaces such as the floors in shopping malls,” according to APTA.
Finally, as the shopping bags start to fill consider a breather by toting them to the car. As APTA notes, “Don’t lug overstuffed shopping bags for extended periods. By making repeated trips to your care to unload, you get a good workout as well as relieve stress on your back muscles.”
Enough said? Hope so, because we at Body1 feel a sudden need to join the throng and go shopping. Happy holidays, and do take care.
Last updated: 16-Dec-05