Of all the clinics of the year, the ones immediately after Christmas are the one that stirs the most emotions. Although we’re used to a wide range of presenting complaints, the ones following the season of festive brouhaha, are often the most bizarre but often reflect how a family’s seasonal holiday was ruined by avoidable injury.
Most existing patients are rightly keen to prevent this, which is why the December patient lists are groaning at the seams as people book for ore-Christmas check-ups or finally resolve to fix the niggles that may have been mothering them for days, all to be right for the Big Ho-ho-ho.
So what steps can you take to avoid musculoskeletal misery over Yule tide?
• Don’t stress yourself out. Christmas is often a time that we spend with people we feel we ought to rather than people we want to – and emotional stress causes muscular tension far more often that it puts your blood pressure up. Plan to be cheerful and polite but build in some solitude time so the effort doesn’t have to be constant: anything from a soak in hot tub to testing out the kids’ new headphones.
• The one thing we all tend to do more at Christmas is be sedentary – be it standing for hours peeling the sprouts or slumped on the sofa watching Downton Abbey. Prolonged standing and sitting are both bad for the spine, so vary your position and take every opportunity to move about, preferably before it starts to hurt!
• When we do finally decide that we’ve spent too long indoors, what do we do? Go out for an over-ambitious Boxing Day family ramble with no thought as to how far each member of the group might be able to walk comfortably, and often we chose places that are guaranteed to cause backache: walking on broken surfaces such as shingle beaches or through thick mud will often trigger low back problems – the key rule: little and often beats seldom and long!
• Most people’s Christmas includes a tipple … or three. But if you don’t want it to lead to injury, then DO mix your drinks: intersperse an alcoholic drink with a soft one, and put a glass of mineral water next to your wine on the dining table (as all #5steppers know). Alcohol induced injuries include falling asleep in awkward positions, muscular dehydration and falls.
• The final danger – and one that often strains the physician’s straight-face – is the over-exuberant unaccustomed activity. Every year we see uncles who thought they could beat their niece at Twister; Wii-induced Granny pains from the expectation that they could play living-room tennis in the same way as they did the real thing half a century ago; pulls, twists and sprains from over-ambitious romance gone wrong (you don’t have to lift someone off their feet to kiss them under the mistletoe) and no Dad should be allowed to dance after more than 5 units of alcohol (if at all).
… and finally, when you’re lifting the turkey out of the oven – bend your knees!