The holidays are in full swing now and with it comes a lot of lifting, decorating, and travel. It also comes with a lot of stress, aches, and pains.  There are some simple things you can do that can make difference not only during the holiday season, but even after.

Lifting

1. Hip Hinge

We have all heard when lifting make sure to lift with your legs and not your back. Now, this is true you should lift with your legs over your back. However, lifting posture is often not talked about. When we bend down to pick something up majority of the motion should come from our hips and not the low back. Our backs are at most risk for injury, especially the discs, when we are flexed (rounded over) and lift a load. Add a twist and you have the perfect storm for injury.When you are lifting over the holidays make sure to keep the low back neutral, not rounded or over extended, and hinge over at the hips to get the bending forward motion. Then drive up with the legs through the hips to reduce strain on the low back.

 When we hip hinge we keep the back neutral while flexing at the hip. 

When we hip hinge we keep the back neutral while flexing at the hip. 

 This puts the low back at risk when lifting a load.

This puts the low back at risk when lifting a load.

 Hinge at the hip to bend forward then bend the knees. Drive up through the hips when lifting.

Hinge at the hip to bend forward then bend the knees. Drive up through the hips when lifting.

2. Breathing/Bracing

People always hear “you need to strengthen your core”, but how do you do that? Sit ups? Planks? Squats on an exercise ball? No you don’t have to do some crazy core exercises, something as simple as breathing properly is a simple starting point. We talked about this in our blog “Breathing: Insurance for the Low Back”. When we breathe deep into our belly, expanding 360 degrees, we activate all the muscles of the core. Think of a power lifter with a weight belt on about to deadlift, they use the belt to generate pressure to stabilize their back. The core muscles are our natural weight belt that helps to stabilize the low back. When you breathe and expand the belly 360 degrees, it not only activates the muscles of the core, but generates Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) to help protect the low back. So when you are lifting and decorating make sure to let the belly go and breathe.

 Breathing and filling 360 degrees activates the muscle in front, side, and back.

Breathing and filling 360 degrees activates the muscle in front, side, and back.

 This is a drill to see if you are a chest breather or breathing into the belly. It can also be used as a training tool to start breathing deep into the belly.

This is a drill to see if you are a chest breather or breathing into the belly. It can also be used as a training tool to start breathing deep into the belly.

Decorating

3. T-Spine Open Book

The thoracic spine (T-spine) or better known as the mid-back is commonly restricted/stiff due to poor posture. It is an area that tends to need more mobility. As we discussed in our blog “Thoracic Spine: The Tine Man of the Spine” it is often an area that needs to be assed when treating shoulder and low back cases. The T-spine open book is a good exercise to get motion into the mid-back and help with reaching during decorating and get some stiffness out after a long drive. 

 The start position is the bottom arm straight out in front of you and the top arm on top of the bottom arm. Keep the knees and hips in a 90/90 position to lock out the low back. Then open the top arm up and let your breath out. 

The start position is the bottom arm straight out in front of you and the top arm on top of the bottom arm. Keep the knees and hips in a 90/90 position to lock out the low back. Then open the top arm up and let your breath out. 

4. Bow and Arrow

The bow and arrow is a way to avoid stressing the low back if you are having to be bent over for long periods of time. It combines hip hinge while using the arm as a base of support to reduce the stress placed on the muscle of the back to hold you up when you are bent over.

 When bent over use the bow and arrow technique. Use one of your arms to support yourself and take the strain off of the low back muscles.

When bent over use the bow and arrow technique. Use one of your arms to support yourself and take the strain off of the low back muscles.

Travel

5. Standing Extensions

Long trips to travel and see family is a common thing this time of year, which means a lot of sitting. Sitting brings the low back into flexion (rounding), after a couple hours of sitting in the car this can make the low back feel stiff and tight. Standing extensions help to relieve tightness and stiffness after sitting in flexion for long periods of time. Placing a rolled up towel behind the low back can also help to support the low back when traveling and sitting for long periods of time.

 Start with the hands around your hips standing straight up.

Start with the hands around your hips standing straight up.

 Then lean back over your hands and hold for a couple of seconds, then come back to the start position and repeat.

Then lean back over your hands and hold for a couple of seconds, then come back to the start position and repeat.

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