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Finding Calm In The Chaos: Preventing Back Pain Flare Ups During The Holidays

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was holiday time. The holidays are what many of us live for. The chance to see family. Relax. Spend time with loved ones. Eat amazing food and take lots of naps. Sounds too good to be true? You might be right!

Backpain flare ups are especially common at this time of the year. Read on to learn more about preventing back pain flare ups and how to not let them stop you from having a happy holiday.

LivaFortis looks at how back pain can flare up over the holidays.

Holiday Statistics On Stress

As much as we can’t wait for the holidays and the excitement that they bring, statistics show that the holidays can be a super stressful time for many of us.

Here are some stressful holiday statistics:

  • 69% of people feel that they have a “lack of time” over the holiday season.

  • 69% of people feel like they have a “lack of money”

  • 51% feel pressured to “give or get gifts”

  • 38% of people feel that their stress levels increase over the holidays

  • 77% of people have a hard time relaxing over the holidays

  • 29% of people are stressed about “putting up decorations”

  • 35% of people are stressed about family gatherings.

  • 35% of people are stressed about working out where to spend the holidays

  • 31% of people are stressed about how much money to spend on gifts.

51% of people feel stressed about getting or giving gifts at Christmas.

Holiday Harmony Or Holiday Harm For Your Back?

While we often have these Hallmark movies playing in our heads about how the holidays are going to be, unfortunately the holidays can sometimes be more like a comedy of errors than a romantic one.

Research shows that the average couple will have 7 arguments over the holiday season which comes as no surprise when we see that celebrating the holidays makes 88% of people say that they feel stressed. Where to spend the holidays and how much to spend on gifts are two of the most contentious issues facing couples over the holiday season.

The holidays can be a challenging time for many people.

The reality is that the holidays can be far from harmonious and happy. For many people there are situations that can be triggered at every turn.

For those struggling with depression, grief, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, or any other mental illness, the holidays can be extremely challenging. Family gatherings, an emphasis on food, the pressure to create the perfect holiday or to be happy after the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming.

For people struggling with grief and depression the holidays can be tough.

Holiday Stress and Low Back Pain

While the holidays can wreak havoc on your mental health, they can also have a big impact on your physical health. From a physical perspective, hours spent standing in endless shopping lines trying to get the best deals or find the perfect present can take a toll on your lower back.

Long nights spent sitting on the floor wrapping gifts can be brutal for your back. Some find themselves on not super supportive sleeper couches while staying at relatives' homes or crushed into coach class airline seats for long periods of time. Then there is the obvious - injuries related to hanging holiday decorations and many hazardous high ladder falls.

Decorating for the holidays can be dangerous and can be a major cause of low back pain.

How Stress Affects Your Muscles

Stress itself can also take a toll on your physical health. Stress has been shown to cause musculoskeletal pain in the lower back. When our bodies are stressed our muscles tend to tense up. This is actually a natural reaction to stress.

This is helpful for acute situations but when we are facing chronic stress over the extended holiday period our muscles don’t get the chance to relax and they stay in a constant state of tension.

When our bodies are stressed our muscles tend to tense up. This can cause low back pain.

Studies On Stress And Low Back Pain

One study, conducted on 8,473 people in Korea found that increasing levels of “stress showed a significant positive association with chronic low back pain. Severe stress was associated with a 2.8 fold increase in risk of chronic low back pain compared to the general population.”

Another study conducted in Denmark in 2020, found that moderate and high stress at baseline increased the odds of having low back pain in almost 2000 study participants.

The researchers in this study concluded that psychological stress increased the odds of low back pain in the healthcare workers that were studied, and recommended that strategies be implemented to help lower stress and prevent musculoskeletal disorders in this population.

High stress has been shown to increase your odds of having low back pain.

The importance of using relaxation, and other stress-relieving techniques and therapies to reduce muscle tension cannot be emphasized enough. Activities such as mindfulness and meditation have been shown to decrease the incidence of stress-related disorders like low back pain and headaches. Not only can they help relieve pain but they can also improve mood and mobility.

A study that was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that “mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may prove to be more effective than traditional treatment in alleviating chronic low back pain”.

Maintaining your mental health and engaging in self-care is a crucial part of holiday preparations.

What Can You Do To Help Prepare For The Holidays

While we could all do with prepping ourselves mentally and emotionally for the holidays, those who suffer from low back pain or depression and anxiety should definitely have some tools that they can implement when things start to feel like they are getting a bit out of control.

Maintaining your mental health and engaging in self-care is a crucial part of holiday preparations and can make a big difference to how much enjoyment you get out of the season.

Over spending during the holidays can be a major cause of stress.

Tips For Preventing Back Pain Flare Ups During The Holidays

It is easy to get carried away with all that Christmas cheer, until you get your credit card bill in January. While the holidays only come once a year it is important to set budgets, and realistic goals so that you aren’t left disappointed or with a financial “hangover” in the new year.

Here are some of our tips for getting through the holidays season with less stress.

LivaFortis shares some tips on how to get through the holidays back pain free.

1. Set Realistic Expectations

Your holiday doesn’t have to look like the movies. While Kevin’s parents (Home Alone Movie) could afford to live in a huge house in Chicago (we could just stop right there!) and pay for at least 7 plane tickets to Paris in December, the reality is that most of us can’t even dream about doing something like that. Decide on what is important and realistic for your family and know that being together and making memories doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

You could stay home in your PJs or have a movie marathon. Maybe caroling round the neighborhood or volunteering at a shelter? There are some great activities that can bring you together without costing a dime!

Making memories doesn't have to cost a fortune - set a christmas budget and stick to it.

2. Make A Budget - And Stick To It!

In 2020 the average American household planned to spend around $1,000 on holiday gifts. With rising inflation, increasing energy costs and job uncertainty this is not realistic for many families. Set a realistic budget for your family this holiday season and get creative finding gifts that fit the budget but that are still meaningful.

Perhaps you could chip in with other family members for big ticket items or give money towards a larger item, and help teach your children about savings goals and working towards bigger presents.

One thing we have found is that it is generally best to leave yourself a little wiggle room in your budget and maybe spend a bit less on something else if there is a more expensive gift that you just have to buy for someone.

Online shopping can save you time, money, and stress over the holidays and can help prevent low back pain.

3. Shop Online

Online shopping is a great way to help save money over the holidays. Not only can you see the total in your shopping basket before you have stood in an hour-long line, making it almost impossible to want to put anything back, but you can also shop around for the best deals without even leaving your couch!

Comparing deals from different stores online means you save gas (and time) and you can wait for other things to go on sale, or look for coupons associated with them. Many stores will offer free shipping so you don’t have to stand in line and pay extra at the post office for friends and family who live further away. Amazon even offers financial incentives for those who can wait a little longer for their orders to be delivered so get in early and make some money!

Reduce stress by going Christmas shopping at less busy times during the holiday season.

4. Find The Best Time To Shop

If you do have to go to the mall, weekdays and weeknights are often much quieter than the weekends. Park further away and you can get in a little exercise while you do your errands. Going after meal times will also help you feel less tempted to hit the food court for an extra snack and save you a little more money.

Mindfulness is a great way to beat stress and back pain through the holidays.

5. Practice Mindfulness

Staying calm and mindful during shopping can make a big difference to how you feel afterwards. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime during the holidays. Find a quiet room or even a closet for a quick moment of peace and deep breathing.

You can also go for a quick walk around the block wherever the holidays find you. Not only will connecting with nature help you feel a little calmer and more peaceful, but it is good exercise, too!

Another great option is to download some meditation apps to do a quick body scan before bed or when you wake up first thing in the morning. Taking a few moments for yourself and for your health can make a big difference to how you feel about the day.

When it comes to meditation there are lots of free options on YouTube with various lengths. You can do a 1 minute meditation if that is all you have or a 10 minute bed time body scan for a really good night’s rest. The choice is up to you. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Taking time to relax can help you feel more engaged throughout the day.

6. Be Kind To Yourself

Some relatives are impossible to please so all you can do is try your best and be kind to yourself. No one will know if you had a particular dish that didn’t work out. No one will care if your cranberry sauce isn’t home made.

Hopefully what they care about is spending time with you and being thankful for each other. It has been quite a year or so. This holiday season practicing grace for others (and for yourself) is one of the best gifts you can give!

Digital physical therapy can help prevent back pain during the holidays

7. Stick With Your Physical Therapy

This one might sound like a joke, but we are actually serious! Digital physical therapy programs give you access to your physical therapy exercises wherever you go. And you can do them at a time that suits you!

You can try and do your exercises first thing in the morning before everyone else gets up, or you can find a few quiet moments in the day that might work better.

An added bonus? Digital physical therapy programs can be a very affordable way of accessing physical therapy and are MUCH cheaper than a trip to the ER for a pulled back will be!

Digital physical therapy can let you do your rehab and spend time with family.


The holidays are about presence, not presents. Find new traditions that don’t cost money. Find ways to actually spend time together that doesn’t necessarily involve hours at the mall. A family walk and picnic in a park, roasting marshmallows outside, watching the stars, these are all ways that you can connect with nature, connect with each other, and connect with yourself that don’t cost money.

Memories are the best gifts you can give. Hopefully your family will be thankful for you and for your efforts and not just expect the latest, greatest gadget that will be soon replaced by the next thing.

Don't forget to take care of yourself over the holidays to help reduce stress and prevent low back pain.

And while we are thinking about the spirit of giving, don’t forget to give yourself the gift of self care. Taking care of your mental health during the holidays will not only benefit you and your low back, but it will help you to be more present with loved ones. Self care is not selfish. It is the best gift you can give to you and your family.

Happy holidays!


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