With the holiday season being a busy time of year, stretching and exercising often get put on the back burner. Holiday preparation like festive decorating inside and out, shopping, standing, and carrying all of those heavy presents can leave a toll on the body leading to aches and pains often in the hips and low back areas. Thankfully, these aches and pains can be managed with a few simple daily stretches that only take 5-10 minutes.
Four Stretches to Manage Aches & Pains
Pectoral Musculature Doorway Stretch
Cooking, cleaning, wrapping presents, and shopping all place us in a position where we are leaning forward with rounded shoulders, which cause tightness in the pectoral musculature.
One way to counteract this tightness is to stretch out your pectoral musculature in a doorway through an exercise called a doorway pec stretch:
- Place both hands on each side of a doorway and step into the doorway to feel a stretch along the chest.
- Hold this for 15-30 seconds at a time and perform 3 times.
This stretch will help to bring your shoulders back and open your chest.
With prolonged sitting, standing, and walking, people often report they feel soreness in the “glutes.” Often times the soreness is caused by a tight piriformis.
You can stretch your piriformis while laying on the ground, the couch, or bed:
- Lay on your back, with one knee bent up towards your chest.
- Place the bent leg’s foot over the other leg.
- Place your hands on the bent knee and pull the leg across your body, towards your opposite shoulder, until you feel a stretch in the gluteal region.
- Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds at a time and perform 3 times on both legs.
This stretch can also be performed in a sitting position.
With increased activity, like walking the mall for holiday gifts, tightness is often felt in the back of the legs (hamstrings).
To stretch your hamstrings:
- Start by finding a place you can lay on your back, like your bed or a spot on the floor.
- Next, place a dog leash or beach towel around one of your feet. While lying on your back and your legs extended straight, use the leash or towel to pull the leg up while keeping the knee as straight as possible.
- A stretch should be felt in the back of the leg. Hold for 15-30 seconds and perform 3 times on both legs.
This stretch can also be performed sitting on the side of the bed or couch, see image below.
Seated Prayer Stretch
The final stretch is called a seated prayer stretch and it stretches the muscles of the low back.
- If comfortable, go into the kneeling yoga pose, child’s pose.
- Lean forward so you can place your hands on the floor.
- Walk your hands to the left. You should feel a stretch in the low-back musculature on your right side.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds and then move to the right side where a stretch should be felt in the left low back region.
- Repeat these steps until you’ve done this 3 times on both sides.
If you are unable to get into the kneeling child’s pose position, this lower-back stretch can also be performed standing at a counter:
- Lean forward and place both hands on the counter.
- Walk your hands to the left.
- You should feel a stretch in the low-back musculature on your right side.
- Hold this for 15-30 seconds and then go to the right side where a stretch should be felt in the left low back region.
- Do this 3 times on both sides.
You can also do this stretch by sitting in a chair and placing your hands on a table and then sliding the chair back to feel a stretch in the lower back musculature.
Tips to Prevent Back Pain This Holiday Season
Back injuries can be frustrating, time-consuming, and costly to fix. Having a back injury can prevent you from being able to be fully present in all of your holiday plans. Having good postural awareness at home, in the car, and at work are essential in providing care for your own back. Whether it involves baking cookies, decorating a tree, or hanging lights around your house, it is important to be cognizant of having correct body mechanics. Remembering correct body mechanics during this busy season can be extremely tough, but here are four proper lifting techniques to help keep you pain-free this holiday season!
- In lifting an object, remember to bend your knees and lift with your legs.
- Keep the object you are lifting close to your body.
- Avoid twisting when lifting, but pivot instead.
- Keep your core muscles tight when lifting.
Incorporating proper body mechanics, postural awareness and exercise can lead you to a successful outcome! We hope this helps you stay happy and healthy through the New Year.
If you still feel pain after performing these stretches regularly or following these proper lifting techniques, make an appointment at one of our physical therapy offices. We’ll provide a tailored exercise and stretching plan to help manage your pain so you can fully enjoy the season.