Preventing shopping aches and pains

Published 7:07 pm Tuesday, December 14, 2010

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The days after Christmas usually bring flurries of gift returns, feasting on leftovers and mapping New Year’s resolution plans for most people in Shelby County.

But the post-Yule period also brings an increase in neck, back, shoulder and other injuries, according to Shelby Baptist Medical Center Manager of Occupational Medicine and physical therapist Dana Blake.

“The injuries usually don’t start rolling in until after Christmas,” Blake said. “A lot of what we see right after Christmas are foot, neck and back injuries.”

Spacing out holiday work, like cooking and shopping, is the key to avoiding some unwanted physical effects of the holidays, Blake said.

Trying to cram eight hours of shopping and four hours of cooking into one day can put a person at risk for minor, and sometimes major, injuries, she said.

“A lot of people will look at their shopping or cooking list and say ‘by golly, I’m going to get all of that done today,'” Blake said. “So they’ll park at one end of the shopping center, shop until they get to the other end and then haul all those bags back to their car.

“You’ve just got to plan your shopping ahead of time so it goes more smoothly,” she added.

During the Christmas rush, many do not take time to ensure their health, and end up injuring themselves in the process, she said.

Blake urged shoppers to take breaks during shopping days to allow their bodies from becoming overly fatigued or injured.

“If you are going to shop all day, try to shop for about four hours in the morning and then take a two-hour break to rest or spend time with someone you want to see during the holidays,” Blake said. “Then finish your shopping in the afternoon.

“Make frequent trips to your car to drop things off as you purchase them throughout the day,” Blake added. “Carrying some of those eco-friendly bags with the shoulder straps can keep you from carrying all that weight on your hands.”

Many retailers also sell rolling shopping carts, which can carry several bags through a mall or shopping center.

“You can put a lot of stuff in those,” Blake said. “A lot of them even have those D-ring hooks on them so you can hook shopping bags to the sides.”

When shopping at an outdoor shopping center like Alabaster’s Colonial Promenade, Blake suggested parking at one end of the center and gradually moving your car as you progress from store to store.

“That way, you can load your bags into your car each time you move it,” Blake said. “Then when you get done at the next store, your car will be right there in front of it.”

Being well-rested and wearing comfortable shoes can also prevent injuries, as can wearing a lighter purse and always lifting heavy items with your legs instead of your back, she said.

“You don’t have to look good with high heels to go shopping,” Shelby Baptist registered nurse Michelle Loveday said with a laugh.

“Wearing one of those small slings that just carries your wallet, your ID and a few credit cards is a lot better than carrying a purse with 20 pounds of stuff in it,” Blake said.