Avoid Muscle and Joint Discomfort While Holiday Shopping

Squeezing through large crowds and wandering through multiple stores in search of ideal gifts for loved ones can really wear holiday shoppers out. Toting around heavy bags and wearing uncomfortable shoes for extended periods can add discomfort to the exhaustion.

Many holiday shoppers, however unintentionally, tend to overexert themselves, and as a result increase their risk of experiencing nagging neck, shoulder, back and foot pains. With proper body mechanics and other helpful strategies, shoppers can potentially prevent muscle and joint discomfort.

It is best to plan your shopping trip ahead of time. Having a set list of items you intend to purchase can help you determine if you should bring others along with you to help carry bags, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) says. Shoppers should also avoid prime shopping times to cut down on time spent walking around and waiting in long lines.

Instead of carrying dozens of bags, it may behoove shoppers to make a couple of trips to the car to drop off purchases. If you don’t have anyone to help you carry bags, consider using a shopping cart. The APTA says that when carrying bags, shoppers should distribute the weight of shopping bags equally on both sides of their body and avoid carrying overstuffed bags for long periods. In addition to comfortable clothing, shoppers should wear comfortable shoes with plenty of cushioning in the soles to minimize the impact of walking on hard surfaces. Wearing high-heeled footwear on hard surfaces, for example, can contribute to foot and ankle injuries. Carrying a light backpack or fanny pack rather than a heavy purse may also provide some relief.

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) says people should approach holiday shopping as if they’re gearing up for an athletic event. Doing stretches before and after shopping helps. It is generally recommended that people drink eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water a day and avoid coffee, tea, soft drinks and alcohol whenever possible. But on shopping days, people may need to drink even more water, the ACA says.

The ACA recommends taking a break every 45 minutes on heavy shopping days, but cautions that those with less stamina may need a break every 20 to 30 minutes. It’s OK to enjoy a snack during breaks, but try to eat light foods like neck-paina salad and fruit, and resist food and beverages containing caffeine and sugar, which can add stress to your body. Stress causes muscles to be less flexible, the ACA says.

If shoppers prefer not to make frequent trips to the car, they should check to see if their mall or shopping center offers patrons storage lockers. Just be careful not to carry around more than what is absolutely necessary at one time.

If possible, the ACA says, parents should embark on shopping trips without the kids. Some children, especially infants and toddlers, have certain needs and may not have the patience or stamina for a lot of shopping, which could make for a more stressful outing. Crowded stores and malls can also have an adverse effect on the little ones, and there’s always the possibility of a child getting lost in big crowds. If it is necessary to bring the kids along, parents should split child duty with a spouse or another parent who comes along for the trip, the ACA says.

Remember, physiatrists at LifeBridge Health’s Center for Pain Treatment and Regenerative Medicine are experts in musculoskeletal medicine. They can treat a wide range of conditions, including overuse injuries and back, knee, neck and shoulder pains.

To schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained physicians and find out why LifeBridge Health is Baltimore's premier health care organization, call 410-601-WELL.

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