Health Blog

Health and Wellness.

28 Oct

Tips to Avoid Aches & Pains this Thanksgiving

By: Abby LeBlanc, DPT

Family, food and festivities . . . the ingredients for great Thanksgiving memories!  But, if you’re not careful, these memories may turn into aches and pains.

As we get ready to give thanks and kick-off the extended holiday season, Elite Physical Therapist, Abby Leblanc has some tips that can help keep you pain-free.

“The hectic schedules, overeating, and stress of the holiday season often times can cause inflammation or injuries to our bodies without us knowing immediately. Sometimes it takes the season to calm down or come to an end before we start to realize how bad our back hurts, or our knee hurts, etc.” says Abby LeBlanc, DPT. “There are plenty of things we can do to prevent this from happening.”

Activities such as standing too long while cooking, meal preparation, and lifting heavy objects like turkeys and boxes can cause back, shoulder and neck pain,” says Abby.  “There are simple things that can be done to help decrease the effects of the added stress on our bodies.”

While cooking, be sure to stand on a padded surface, and maintain even weight on each leg. If needed for comfort, use a stool to prop-up one foot, and give each leg a turn.  It’s best to stand when carving or chopping, so choose a workspace that is level with your forearms when elbows are bent at a 90° angle.  Try to find a counter space to work on in your kitchen that is comfortable so that you are not straining by leaning over or reaching up. Don’t forget to take a break every 20-30 minutes and perform simple stretching exercises to loosen shoulder, back and neck muscles.

“If you are going to be on your feet all day cooking, cleaning, or attending a party, I beg you to plan your footwear accordingly,” says Abby. Slippers are a good idea if just plodding from the bedroom to the couch on a normal evening. Most slippers weren’t meant for standing over the stove for 8 hours. Abbys advice?Strap on those athletic shoes and get to cookin’!

When sitting or standing for long periods whether cooking or watching football games, be mindful of maintaining an upright posture:

  • Your low back should have a slight forward curve
  • Your ears should remain directly over your shoulders
  • Your shoulders should remain over your hips

When it’s time to get the turkey out of the oven, or grab dessert from the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, lift with your knees, and avoid bending at the waist or twisting your trunk. “Keep the load close to your midline (bellybutton), and your body,” say Abby.  If you need to move any heavy objects, test the weight of the object first by pushing it with your foot.  If it seems too heavy, ask for help.

In addition to muscle aches and pains, injuries to the hand are all too common during the holidays. From turkey carving to broken glass, the kitchen can be a dangerous place. We all sometimes forget how sharp knives can be. “We often see finger and tendon injuries when patients try to cut a piece of bread in their hand, or catch a slice of meat under the knife. Always remember to use a cutting board, and keep your free hand away from the knife,” advises Abby.

Keep your knife sharp, the handle dry and consider using an electric knife for ease with carving. Your carving surface should be dry to help prevent the item from slipping, and well-lit so you can see.  Never carve towards yourself, and keep your free hand opposite of the side you are carving towards.  When it’s time for the dreaded washing of the dishes, remember that wet, sudsy plates and glasses can be dangerous to your hands if dropped.

One of the most important things you can do is to make time to exercise during the holiday season. Exercising can keep your heart and lungs healthy, and it may help decrease aches and pains that occur.

Thirty minutes of exercise each day can also help elevate your mood and promote feelings of well-being, something that may be important during the stressful holiday season. Exercises that you can be doing include:

  • Going for a solitary walk or jog
  • Bike riding
  • Low back stretches
  • Postural stretches
  • Neck stretches
  • Bodyweight strengthening exercises

By being creative and using items around the house for exercise, you can be sure to keep your body moving and your mind sharp. Exercise may also help prevent repetitive strain injuries that may occur while spending countless hours preparing for holiday events.

And finally…eat some veggies and sleep when you can. Increased sugar intake and lack of sleep over the holidays can cause your body to become more inflamed, which makes you more susceptible to soreness, achiness, and pulled muscles. “So eat that pumpkin pie, but go ahead and pile a little more of that spinach salad on your plate while you’re at it,” adds Abby.

Enjoy the heck out of this holiday season, but remember even the slightest bit of self-care can go a long way toward making your Thanksgiving and holidays stress and pain free. No one wants to miss out on the Thanksgiving Day backyard family football game due to sitting on the couch with an ice pack from a holiday injury!

Unfortunately, accidents and aches and pains do happen.  If your aches and pains last more than a few days, visit ELITE Physical Therapy for a Individualized Injury Screening.  ELITE will address your concerns, evaluate your injury and provide you with options so we can get you back on your feet and feeling good by Christmas! 


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