Shopping-Related Injuries a Real Pain

Check out these safety tips before checking out holiday purchases

FRIDAY, Nov. 26, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Now that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season begins in earnest with its stress, pressure and even increased risk of injury, according to experts at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

"During the holiday season, we see a significant rise in patients who are experiencing back, shoulder, and neck pain," APTA member Kendra Harrington, a physical therapist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said in a prepared statement.

"Many have desk jobs and are fairly inactive most of the year. Rushing around and carrying too many things at once -- and in the wrong way -- places added stress on bodies, which may increase the chance of injury," she said.

You can avoid injury by taking some simple precautions, such as lifting boxes with your legs and maintaining your balance by evenly distributing the weight of shopping bags, the APTA advises.

Here are some lifting safety tips:

  • Before you lift heavy objects or luggage, try pushing them with your foot. If they seem too heavy, take smaller loads. That will make it easier on your arm and shoulder muscles and reduce the risk of back strain.
  • When lifting, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back. Don't lean over to lift an object. Instead, stand close to the object, bend your legs, keep your back straight, and then lift.
  • If you do suffer a back injury, get medical help. Left untreated, a minor back injury can lead to recurrent lower back problems.

The APTA also offers advice on how to be kind to your body while you shop:

  • Maintain balance by evenly distributing the weight of shopping bags on both sides of your body.
  • Use a fanny pack or small backpack instead of carrying a heavy purse. If you use a backpack, use both straps when you wear it.
  • Wear walking, running, or other comfortable shoes. Wearing high heels can lead to foot and ankle injuries if you're carrying packages while walking on hard mall floors.
  • Don't carry overstuffed shopping bags for long periods. That can stress your back muscles. Instead, make repeated trips to your car to unload your purchases.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health offers advice on how to maintain a healthy back.

SOURCE: American Physical Therapy Association news release, Nov. 9, 2004
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