Tips to keep neck & back pain at bay during the festive season

Tips to keep neck and back pain away during the Festive Season


The festive season can involve activities that we don’t usually engage in, such as climbing ladders, hanging lights, picking up heavy boxes, doing more sitting that usual, and may also involve travel, whether by car or plane in order to spend time with family and loved ones. 


Who wants to be bothered with back or neck pain when hanging out with family, right? Here are some tips to help prevent the onset or minimize back or neck pain if it’s something you already suffer with:


If possible, take your own pillow when traveling. A poor night’s sleep can ruin your day and a pillow that is too hard or too soft can cause you to wake up with an unhappy neck. If you struggle with a stiff neck, you can find my favorite neck stretches on the Vital Life Physical Therapy You Tube channel or go to my website for a comprehensive online course on how to heal neck pain with your own hands and simple tools. Go to and look for the featured Product on the home page.


When moving ladders or lifting boxes, keep your abdominal muscles activated by pulling your navel in towards your spine to give your back some support and not overwork your small back muscles. Carry the load as close to your body as possible and try to avoid bending at the waist when carrying or lifting objects. Bend from the knees and use your large leg and buttock muscles to do the “heavy lifting” so to speak, while you keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles activated.


Climbing ladders to decorate tall trees or hang lights can be hazardous so make sure you place the ladder on a firm surface and don’t try to overreach. Rather get back down and move the ladder closer to where you need to be to avoid straining your back or shoulder, or even worse, a potential loss in balance which could result in a fall and a much more severe injury.


Longer-than-usual sitting, either when visiting with relatives or traveling to get there can wreak havoc on the lower back. Backs usually like movement, so make sure that if you are driving long distances, you stop at least every two hours to walk around and do some hip circles and stretches. Whether traveling by plane or car, have a sweater or small pillow that you can put behind your lower back to help maintain that natural c-curve. Most seats do not have sufficient lumbar support which means that your lower black flattens out when sitting for a long time which can cause the ligaments and small joint capsules to stretch, and invite any bulging discs you may have, to protrude even further which could cause pressure on the nearby nerves, giving rise to leg pain, otherwise known as sciatica. 


Unloading suitcases is another activity that can cause back pain or back injury, especially if you do not take the advice in the above paragraph when traveling long distances. Follow the principles above regarding heavy lifting and you will minimize your risk of injury. Also beware of lifting and twisting with a load like a heavy bag or suitcase and be cautious unloading heavy items from the trunk of a car onto a driveway or sidewalk. Lower with your knees and avoid bending at the waist.


If you find yourself feeling stiff after sitting visiting with family, suggest going for a walk together which will also help to stimulate your circulation and help digest the food you have been eating. Your back will likely feel happier, and you will be more comfortable to enjoy another few hours of festivities. 


Visit my You Tube channel for helpful videos if you do find your back hurting, but remember, without having a physical therapist assess you, any video you access on the internet is only a suggestion and may not be the solution to your unique situation. You can also download a free e-book about help for back pain from my website.


When in doubt, walk it out. Walking is one of the best things you can do if you have back pain and it usually doesn’t make it worse, so put on your walking shoes and do a lap or two around the block or down the road and back. Keep moving and make memories with your loved ones this Christmas Season! 



Sarah Rudolph

Vital Life PT


Helping you live life abundantly!



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