Happy (Pain-Free) Holidays!

holiday-shoppingStarting in November through the year-end, many of us are constantly on the go. We’re on our feet while shopping, cooking and going to parties. We’re traveling more and we’re often feeling more stress, which can lower our tolerance for pain.

Pain can put a damper on the season and you want to be enjoying time with family and friends, not skipping out on parties or struggling to through the pain.

Here are some tips to stay pain-free while shopping, cooking and traveling.

Shopping and Cooking

During the holiday season, extra trips to the grocery store and the mall are inevitable. Minimize the chance of a pain flare-up by:

– Going shopping during off hours to secure a closer parking spot and avoid waiting in long lines
– Making a list of what you need to avoid extra wandering
– Using a shopping cart even if you only need a few things—this will keep you from placing extra strain on your arms and shoulders
– Making multiple trips—you may need to go gift shopping one day and food shopping the next. And, don’t try to save time by bringing everything in at once; the extra trips to and from the car are worth the time

For many families, the holidays aren’t the same without those special dishes or cookies. If you are the one responsible for these (or other) essential items, enlist help. Cooking for the holiday should be enjoyable.

If you are making a stew or a roast, enlist others to help with the chopping, or do the prep work the night before you plan to cook. Having all of the vegetables ready to go will save you tons of time on your feet and protect your wrists from too much strain. If you are roasting a turkey or working on something that needs constant watching, ask for help basting and stirring.

With baking, consider making the dough the night before you plan to make the cookies. This splits the task in two. And, it’s usually easy to get helpers for cookie-related projects. Invite others to help with decorating to save you time on your feet.

For all kitchen projects, think about whether a stool would be a helpful way to take breaks and alternate your position during longer projects.

The Journey: Not Always Half the Fun

Traveling by car, plane or train can be really hard if you’re managing pain. Sitting for too long isn’t good for anyone—especially those of us with leg, knee, hip or lower back pain.

Experts are starting to really dig in and understand the adverse affects of sitting too much, but they believe that sitting has a negative affect on blood vessels and metabolism by increasing fat content in the blood stream and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. (source here?)

“When you are standing or walking, your leg muscles are constantly working, which helps to clear blood glucose and blood fats from the blood stream,” Dr. Hidde van der Ploeg, a researcher at the University of Sydney told The Huffington Post. “If you are sitting, this is not happening because the muscles are not active.”

On car trips, plan to stop every hour for a quick walk. Pull into a rest stop or other area safe from passing traffic, of course.

If you are traveling by air, you will begin the day with a lot of standing and walking—and most of the floors will be unforgiving. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a bag you can manage if you don’t have assistance. Mail gifts and other heavy items ahead of time so you don’t have to lug them through the airport. If you need a ride to your gate or the assistance of a wheelchair, don’t be embarrassed about asking.

However, if you can manage the walk, it could be a good chance to stretch your legs before your flight. On the plane, get up and walk to the bathroom every hour—most airlines don’t allow you to stay standing in the aisle, so be mindful of the rules. If the pain still manages to creep up, remember to bring a portable TENS unit, like the Omron electroTHERAPY Pain Relief Pro.  It’s small, portable and good for travelling even on the plane for whenever you need it.

If you have back or neck pain, bring a neck pillow or lumbar support pillow. While these are often sold in airports, they are great for car trips, too. No matter how you travel, when packing, be sure to bring any medications you need along with a TENS device if that is part of your pain management regimen.

Planning ahead and asking for help when you need it can help you enjoy your holidays with less pain and more happiness.

By Libby Lowe, Writer and Content Strategist