Originally posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

We’ve moved into November. Whether we like it or not, the weather is getting colder, snow is beginning to fall and……gulp……. Christmas music is already starting to ring through the speakers of your local, probably over crowded, department store. Sadly, you are only a few weeks away from being a few weeks behind on your Christmas shopping, which when done, will mean you will probably be frantically wrapping gifts to get under the tree for the big day.

With the stress of the holidays, there isn’t much time to think about how your gift wrapping spree can be hard on your body. Wrapping presents for an extended period of time can cause strains on the upper back and neck if done improperly. Below are some tips to keep your back and neck healthy this holiday season.

Get up and stretch – It may seem silly to stretch before doing something so repetitive, but if you’re going to pull an all-night gift wrapping cram session, stretching will go a long way in preventing injury. You should stretch before you begin and around every 30 minutes of wrapping or so. Also be sure to not sit in the exact same position the entire time you are wrapping as this can cause stiffness and muscle fatigue. If you’re looking for a stretch guide to help you out, look no further than the Straighten Up Alberta program.

Avoid sitting on the floor – If you are wrapping gifts on the floor for long periods of time, you are most likely spending a lot of time leaning forward, which can put a lot of tension and stress on your back and neck. Use a table and chair to wrap your presents. Also try to keep items you will be picking up or putting down constantly, like scissors or tape, within arm’s length. This way you won’t be reaching and putting unneeded stress on your muscles.

Be careful when lifting large or awkward items – Before you even start to wrap your gifts, you often have to lug out all your decorations and also a tree. This means quite a lot of lifting. When you lift something, the load on your spine increases and your spine can only bear so much before it is injured. When you are lifting, correct body position and lifting technique is crucial to preventing injury.

Here is a step‐by‐step technique for lifting safely and preventing back injury:

  1. Stand close to the object you are going to lift.
  2. Place your feet shoulder‐width apart.
  3. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible to squat to the level of the object.
  4. Test the weight of the load before lifting.
  5. Keep the load close to your body.
  6. Use the strength of your leg and arm muscles (not your back) to smoothly and slowly lift the load. Do not to jerk when lifting.
  7. Pivot your feet to turn in the direction you want to move toward.
  8. Avoid twisting your body while turning and carrying the load.
  9. Bend your knees and slowly lower the load to its new location.
  10. Always ask for help if the load is too large, heavy or awkward.

What do I do if I’ve already hurt my back or neck?

 See your chiropractor if you’ve already injured your back or neck. If not treated, back and neck pain may go away temporarily, but in many cases it returns and becomes more of a persistent pain. Your chiropractor can provide more sustainable relief.

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