Ho Ho Holiday Back Pain: December 12, 2011

There weren’t any elves helping Chris Ressler put up his holiday decorations. He tackled the job himself.

“It’s a full day, it’s a full day yeah, it’s a full eight hour, ten hour day.”

Chris relied heavily on a small ladder when he circled his new home with twinkling lights.

“It’s mostly the icicle lights, it was real simple. Just plastic clips, they slip right over the gutter and right under the shingles.”

It’s an activity being played out all across the country, but in some cases the results are anything but jolly.

“It’s a very, very common time of year for people to injure themselves either from pulling a muscle or falling off a ladder or lifting a piece of luggage that’s too heavy,” says Dr. Jon Kimball, an orthopedic spine surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Who knew the holidays could be hazardous to your health. Putting up all these decorations sends tens of thousands of people to the hospital each year.

“Over 50,000 people last year visited the emergency departments as a result of decorating for the holiday,” says Dr. Kimball.

There are a few trouble spots to look out for, with ladders topping the list.

“When people fall off ladders, they’ll break wrists, shoulders, hips ankles but also very commonly if people fall onto their back side they’ll have a compression fracture of their spine,” says Dr. Kimball.

It’s important to use a ladder that’s tall enough and keep it on a level surface, and no climbing on something else to get an extra few inches.

“People will step on anything to get those holiday decorations up, but unfortunately they’re not very steady and will often have a spill,” says Dr. Kimball.

Another holiday crasher: heavy lifting. Whether its getting down boxes or hoisting up decorations, a good rule of thumb is to break the job into smaller loads with more trips, and use correct posture.
“Try and bend with the knees and lift with the leg muscles rather than lifting with the back or even the arms,” says Dr. Kimball.

Chris admits taking a few liberties, but his starry vision is still in progress.

“Maybe a few more lights in the trees.”

If there’s any doubt about safety just remember to watch your back.