‘Busy’: the way that many Australian families describe the Christmas holidays, navigating between beach trips and day outings, Christmas shopping and get-togethers, often whilst still juggling work and everything in between.
With regular routines often going out the window, the holidays are a busy time for physios too with their clients experiencing the resurgence of old aches and pain as a result of rushing around and forgetting some of the basics to maintain their health.
Here are four tips from our physios to help you have a healthy and pain-free Christmas.
1. Lift With Care
There’s a lot of lifting happening during the holidays – suitcases, beach bags and chairs, large Christmas grocery shops – and with kids off school, we may lift or carry them more frequently while also picking up after their daily activities.
With back pain being the second leading cause of disease burden in Australia, and one in six Australians having back problems, each lift counts. Remember to:
- Stand close to the object you’re lifting – the force exerted on your lower back is multiplied the further you stand away from the object
- Avoid awkward postures – make sure you prepare your environment so you can avoid awkward postures whilst lifting
- Have a good grip – even if the object you’re lifting isn’t too heavy, if you don’t have a good grip, get help with the lift or find a way to improve your grip
- Lower gently – it’s just as easy to hurt your back lowering an object down as it is picking it up. Lower gently and keep the object close to your body
2. Stay Hydrated
Adequate hydration fulfils critical functions that keeps our body going, from helping to regulate our body temperature to keeping our joints lubricated, improving our sleep, mood, ability to fight infections and heal wounds, and even affecting our concentration, alertness, short-term memory.
Even mild dehydration impairs the way our bodies function – and so may make us more prone to pain or injury. If you’re staying physically active, a loss of as little as 1-2% of our body weight in water can cause a significant decline in our physical performance while limiting our strength and power. Remember to:
- Always carry a water bottle for yourself and the kids – keep a spare in your car, on the bedside table and in your bag
- Sip water throughout the day – don’t way until you feel extremely thirsty to rehydrate
- Add a glass of water before any meal or snack as a prompt to drink more
- Download a water reminder app – sometimes we just need someone to remind us to have that next glass of water. This is where free smartphone apps can help by periodically sending you reminder notifications until it becomes a habit
3. Fitness: Use It, Don’t Lose It
The Christmas holidays are rightly a good time to relax and unwind – and for some this means taking a break from their regular exercise routine. While rest is very important, remember that prolonged periods of inactivity do mean that you can start to ‘lose’ your fitness.
One week without exercise can see you physically feeling a difference in your cardio fitness, with significant changes after two weeks, according to Exercise and Sports Science Australia. This might feel like being more puffed going up stairs. Two to three weeks can see your strength and power take a significant hit, given that muscle mass decreases when it has no stimulus.
You can help avoid or reduce the downfall by incorporating as much natural exercise into your day as is feasible. Say yes to those walks with family and friends, take the stairs, go for a swim when you’re at the beach – you name it. After the break, ease gently back into your regular workouts instead of going into them at full force – you may need time to get back to your pre-holiday fitness and strength level – and that’s okay.
4. Keep Your Thongs For The Beach
One of our top causes for summer foot and leg pain that our physios see is associated with the change from supportive work and casual shoes for most of the day to flat, unsupportive rubber thongs. The truth about thongs is that they have one purpose: to protect the soles of your feet from potential injury from the ground – whether that be from the hot sand, jagged rocks, broken glass along the path – and so on.
Thongs are not intended to be worn all day every day – and don’t possess any features to help you do so safely, or promote the health of your feet and legs. Their lack of arch support mean your feet often work harder in them, their lack of fastening mechanism means your toes have to constantly grip the base of the shoe as you walk, your ankle freely rolls side to side leaving you vulnerable to sprains – and you miss out on the shock absorbing properties as well as protection for the sides and tops of your feet. We recommend to:
- Only wear thongs when necessary for protection – like at the beach, or in gym showers to protect your feet from the ground
- Never wear thongs if you’re walking significant distances – if your final destination is the beach, wear good supportive shoes as you walk and switch to thongs at the beach
- Ditch the thongs when pain starts – wearing supportive shoes may be all you need to reduce new aches and pains
And If Aches and Pains Do Start…
Then book into the physio early so you can enjoy your Christmas holidays. Our physio clinics are open over summer and here to help. We start with a comprehensive assessment to understand what is causing your pain and why, then working to relieve your symptoms, treat the problem, and help prevent it from coming back in the future.