Why are the holidays such a pain in the . . . back?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, they say, but holiday back pain can put a real hitch in your ho ho ho. The most common causes of holiday back pain include:
- Lifting – Lifting heavy presents or moving furniture for holiday guests can cause back pain.
- Traveling – Sitting on a plane or in a car can put a lot of pressure on the back.
- Stress – Holidays can be stressful, from financial issues to coordinating family activities.
- Hanging Decorations – Getting that star on the very top of your tree can come at a high cost to your lower back.
- Lounging – Hey, some people use this time off work to actually relax. But too much sitting around can lead to stiffness and pain.
These are only some of the many different changes that take place over the holiday season, all of which can contribute to unexpected or more severe holiday back pain.
How to Avoid Holiday Back Pain
Know Your Limits
They say giving is better than receiving, so give an object that is too heavy for you to lift to someone else. Better yet, share the load! Don’t spend family time in traction because you tried to do too much.
Eat Well and Drink Water
Don’t forget to hydrate! It’s easy to forget that food is fuel during the season of delicious and unhealthy treats, but what you eat, and drink will affect your body, and can combat holiday back pain.
If you must do too much – we’re talking to you, Super Mom – be sure to rest between extra tough physical exertion. If you don’t, you’re likely to overwork you’re the muscles supporting your spine and get holiday back pain.
Relax by Taking a Walk
Remember how we said lounging too much can lead to stiffness and holiday back pain? A brisk walk is a great way to keep that from happening! You don’t even have to break a sweat – just move your body every now and then.
Look Out for Number One
A lot of holiday stress comes from worrying about everyone else before yourself. Take a little time for just you, and you’ll avoid that holiday back pain.
What If You Just Can’t Avoid Holiday Back Pain?
Don’t wait to get a proper diagnosis if you think you have injured your spine. Ignoring the symptoms only prolongs the pain. At DISC of Louisiana, our board certified, fellowship trained specialists treat the full spectrum of spinal conditions. Here are a few common ones associated with holiday back pain:
Radiculopathy is the medical term for what’s often described as a pinched nerve. It can be caused by a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis or the thinning and drying of cervical discs that naturally occurs with age. Anything that irritates nerve roots in the spine causes radiculopathy, which can result in pain in the neck, arms, legs, shoulders, hands or fingers.
To understand a herniated disc, imagine a jelly donut that’s been squeezed until the sweet filling leaks out. In this metaphor, the donut is your cervical disc, which sits between your vertebrae and provides cushioning and shock absorption. Like a donut, cervical discs have a gooey filling. If trauma causes your cervical disc to rupture, that jelly-like feeling will ooze out, irritating nearby nerves and leading to pain.
Even severe back and neck pain can improve without surgical intervention. In fact, two out of three patients respond to non-surgical treatments, according to a report published by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Here are a few, common treatment options:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs for short) are an inexpensive, over-the-counter way to address pain. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) are commonly used to treat inflammation.
Epidural Steroid Injections
This treatment puts steroids right where it hurts: in the area where spinal nerves are inflamed. The effects are long lasting–up to a few months.
Physical Therapy (PT)
Often used in conjunction with NSAIDs, physical therapy may include manual therapy, where the therapist massages muscles in the area, posture education, strengthening and range-of-motion exercises and more.
If none of these treatments bring relief, you do have options. Although nobody wants to have surgery, today’s minimally invasive procedures mean shorter hospital stays and recovery times of a few weeks versus a few months. Here are a few more common procedures:
In an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion, the damaged disc is removed and replaced with a bone graft. The bones grow together, forming a new mass called a fusion.
A laminectomy removes part of a vertebra, which creates a larger spinal canal, thus reducing the amount of pressure on a spinal cord or nerve.
In a Total Disc Replacement (TDR), the damaged disc is removed and replaced with a high-tech artificial disc that allows for a greater range of motion than a fusion does.
In a discectomy, part or all of a damaged cervical disc is removed, so it no longer presses on a nerve.
That’s just a little bit of information about common holiday back pain, how it is treated when it can’t be avoided. If you or someone you care about have questions about treating a painful spine injury or condition, please contact us to schedule an evaluation at our clinic nearest to you.