If you made it through 2020, or even just the holiday season, without any of these injuries count yourself as one of the lucky ones. Holiday injuries are more common than you think.
Along with the joys of the holiday season, the winter months also bring a lot of holiday-related pain. Seasonal decorating often requires extra and sometimes risky physical exertion. Traveling longer distances, sometimes cross-country, can be grueling and potentially risky. Partying with family and friends, throwing together elaborate meals, playing in the snow, and sometimes on ice, can be very tough on your body and cause mishaps if you’re not careful. The good news is that you can easily avoid a trip to the emergency room with a few precautions. These are the holiday injuries most commonly seen by health professionals:
1. Lower Back Pain.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nearly 15,000 injuries—or 240 a day during November and December—are related to holiday decorating. All of the the extra reaching, twisting and lifting that comes with holiday decorations can put major strain on your back. People often pay a huge, painful price if they’re not careful. Every year Physical Therapy clinics fill up in the winter months with patients looking for relief from holiday-induced back pain, but there are strategies people can put in place ahead of time to avoid common holiday injuries. You can prep for the season with core work (such as forearm planks, glute bridges and tabletop presses). By strengthening the core, you can increase the amount of weight your back can comfortably carry. Finish up by stretching your back (lie on your back and bring your knees to your stomach for 30 seconds) and legs (bend over and try to touch the floor, with your head tucked as close to your body as possible for 15 seconds).
2. Lifting Injuries
This time of the year bring many opportunities for lifting-related injuries. Shopping, heaving boxes from the basement, and shoveling snow, for example, can cause common holiday accidents and major back strain. Lift items with your feet shoulder-width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other. Squat and lift with your legs—not your back. Also, make sure to keep the load close to your body. Twenty pounds held at arm’s length exerts as much force as 50 pounds held close to your body. When putting the load down, squat; don’t bend your back. Holiday trees should always be carried by at least two people.
3. Snow Shoveling
There are a range of injuries that snow shoveling can bring on, from an aching back to a heart attack. The latter is a serious phenomenon: According to Harvard Medical School, pushing a shovel or heavy snow blower is a known trigger for heart attack. Cold weather can boost blood pressure, interrupting blood flow to the heart, possibly causing a blood clot. More than 100 fatal heart attacks occur each year as a result. If you have, or are at high risk for, heart disease, avoid shoveling snow. If you’re over 55, it is advisable to ask a neighbor for help or hire a teen or service to keep your driveway and walkway clear.
4. Ladder Falls
Ladders see a lot of use during the holiday season. From stringing Christmas lights to arranging indoor decorations and topping the Christmas tree, there are many opportunities for ladder falls. Double check that ladders are on a steady, level surface that is not cluttered with debris when using, and when decorating low and medium heights, use a step stool or utility ladder. Avoid the top two rungs if using an extension ladder for outdoor decorating. It is also very important to remember that the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet the ladder rises.
5. Foot Pain
Aching feet are very common in the winter months. Women especially suffer during the holidays due to the wearing of high heels or narrow-toed footwear for events and parties. Often, it leads to pain at the ball of the foot from metatarsalgia or bursitis, and ankle sprains can occur due to instability on high heels. The best way to avoid foot discomfort and injuries is to wear more sensible shoes—heels no higher than two-and-a-half inches. Avoiding narrow-toed footwear, and utilizing a liner or padded insert inside shoes will help to increase comfort. If you do suffer an injury, massaging and icing can help. If you sprain an ankle, wrap it with an ACE bandage. If the pain doesn’t relent, a podiatrist can offer aid via physical therapy, custom-made orthotics or cortisone injections.
Many people experience depression about a deceased loved one and/or family estrangements during the holiday season. As family and friends come together, feelings of loss may arise. Wintertime isolation can also bring on depression as many people stay at home due to the weather.
Although the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic has made things far more complicated and difficult, checking- in with friends and family to chat about how they’re really doing is very helpful. Be alert to the signs of depression in them — and yourself. A chronic low mood, feelings of hopelessness, or disinterest in previously enjoyed activities could mean it’s time to check in with a healthcare provider for some relief.
7. Childhood Injuries
Children may be more prone to specific common holiday injuries like burns from open flames and burns from hot dishes. Busy and distracted parents and caregivers need to remember how important it is to keep their safety in mind. If visiting another home with children, check areas that may pose danger, such as electrical outlets or stairs, and safeguard these. Be vigilant with medications and make sure they are stored in a safe place, outside of children’s reach. Encourage prompt cleaning, especially if adults are drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco products, in order to prevent children from getting into these substances.
8. Fatigue-Related Accidents
Travel across time zones, late hours, and poor driving conditions all contribute to increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. If not careful, accidents may result from using kitchen utensils, machinery, or an ax or snowblower. Do not drink alcohol and attempt to use these. Also, it is important to get plenty of sleep during the holiday season. If you travel, give yourself time to rest before and after reaching your destination. If you’re feeling fatigued, don’t undertake risky or physical activities until you’re feeling totally alert.
9. Sprained Ankles
For many families, playing football is a tradition enjoyed when celebrating together at Thanksgiving ir even Christmas. Along with sports come sports injuries, so be sure to stretch and play responsibly. If you roll your ankle, it’s best to stop playing, wrap your ankle in an ACE bandage, ice it, elevate it, and take some ibuprofen for pain. You may be able to wait a bit to see a healthcare professional, but if you are unable to bear weight on the ankle or have point tenderness on the bone, you may have fractured your ankle and should see a healthcare professional ASAP.
After indulging in marathon of rich, heavy dishes and desserts, many complain of indigestion. This can be a burning or pressure-like sensation in your stomach or chest, sometimes accompanied by nausea. Drinking tea or flat soda with ginger will help settle an upset stomach. If a medication is needed, go with famotidine (Pepcid) as it is fast-acting and should settle your stomach acid relatively quickly. Do not ignore chest pain that worsens or is accompanied by shortness of breath, jaw pain, arm pain, or an overall sense of fatigue. These could signify a heart attack and warrants immediate medical attention.
While the holidays are a time of celebration, it is important to remember that joy can turn to pain in an instant if you’re not careful to avoid these common holiday injuries. Taking a few precautions early on can help ensure a positive and healthy experience for all.
When to Contact an Accident and Injury Lawyer
Mario Palermo, of Palermo Law Group, has been a practicing Personal Injury Attorney for over 20 years. He is recognized as being in the top 1% of litigators in the nation and has dedicated his career to recovering full and fair compensation for injury victims and their families. To learn more please call us at (630) 684-2332 or request a free legal consultation.