Preventing Holiday Related Aches And Pains.

Tis the season for marathon present wrapping, baking, cooking, and shopping. Here are some physical therapy tips for avoiding the pain pitfalls of the season. 

Present wrapping:

Sit at the table. Make yourself a wrapping station where you are sitting or standing comfortably. Prolonged flexion of the spine from bending over presents on the floor leads to pain. 

Tuck in your elbows. Elbows should be tucked in at your sides as often as possible. This is not always possible with cutting paper or maneuvering large presents. Try to return your elbows to your sides whenever possible to avoid shoulder and neck fatigue. 

Take breaks. Every 2-3 presents give yourself a few seconds of gentle stretching or even a walk to get water or go to the bathroom. This will break up the prolonged positioning and bring back bodily awareness for correct posture. 


Alternate between sitting and standing. Strategize based on what is the most comfortable. Decorating multiple cookies? Sitting will allow you to maintain a neutral spine. 

Correct oven form. Lifting things out of the oven can be tricky and potentially harmful for your back. To lift correctly make sure you are bending at the hip and knee while keeping the belly button tucked in. Ask your favorite PT to correct your form if needed. 

Cold Weather Aches:

The winter can be a tough time for people with chronic joint pain. To avoid joint stiffness, continue to exercise within safe limits. Movement reduces the viscosity of synovial fluid allowing joints to move with less stiffness. Utilize indoor pools, bikes, rowers, and treadmills for 30 minutes a day. Walk or run outdoors within safe weather limits with several layers to stay warm. 

Heat. Heat improved the pliability of tissues also reducing pain and stiffness. Hot showers/baths, heating pads/blankets are a great way to stay warm and reduce joint pain. 

Hydrate. Tissues require hydration to maintain pliability. Water also lubricates joints and helps the body regulate temperature. Make sure you are consuming at least 2 liters of water daily. 

Shoveling Snow: 

Warm up. Athletes warm up before competition with light activity and stretches. This primes the body for a workout and reduces risk of injury. Walk a few minutes and perform light stretches prior to shoveling to warm up muscles and prepare the body for intense activity. 

Focus on posture/form. Try to stay aware of posture while shoveling. Take a few seconds to roll the shoulders down and back and draw the belly button in towards the spine. Tuck the tailbone underneath you. When bending over make sure you are bending from the knees and hips, not the spine. 

By Emma Claucherty, DPT, OMPT

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