Last time, we talked ways to avoid back pain when preparing for and having holiday dinners. Once the meal is over, you might want to sit down and relax, take a nap, or take part in a football game with your family. Now that you’ve managed to avoid back pain during the first half of the day, don’t let that nap on the couch give you back pain for the rest of the day. Here are my tips for your after-dinner activities.
Watching the Parade or Football on the Couch
After a large meal, it’s tempting to be a couch potato the rest of the day. However, if you’re sitting on the couch for too long, you might end up with a backache later.
- Posture is still important. No matter where you’re sitting, you need to make a conscious effort to stop yourself from slouching. No matter where you’re sitting, if you are sitting with poor posture for long periods of time, you’ll feel it in your back later.
- Make sure you have enough support. A lot of sofas tend to be too low and too deep for us to sit properly. While it may feel nice at first to sink into a large, cushioned sofa after a big meal, it probably won’t give your back the support it needs. Often, sofas like this put the spine in an unnatural C-shape, which stresses the discs, muscles, and ligaments in the lower back. Use extra pillows to support your back so that you are able to sit comfortably while keeping up correct posture.
- Try not to sit down all day. Perhaps you’re not feeling energetic enough to join in the family touch football game, but that doesn’t mean you should sit down all day. Try to get up and move around at least every hour. Maybe you can even start a new family tradition of taking a walk in the neighborhood after the meal.
Taking a Nap
Once you get comfortable on the couch, it can be tempting to doze off, but you’ll often wake up with back pain afterwards. Here are some things you can do instead.
- Get to a bed if you can. If you’ve gotten up earlier than usual to prepare for guests, it’s understandable that you might be tired by the afternoon. If you think you’re going to fall asleep, get in bed if you can. A sofa is not designed to support your body the way a mattress would, so when you fall asleep there, you often end up sleeping in unnatural positions that strain your back.
- If you can’t get in bed, go for the recliner. Since a reclining armchair has a footrest and the ability lean back, it’s often a better option for back support than the sofa.
Playing a Football Game
A lot of families have a tradition of playing a football game after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It’s great to want to be active after a heavy meal, and may help you burn off some of those extra calories, but make sure you don’t hurt yourself in the process.
- Warm up first. It’s always a good idea to start out with a warmup. Do some stretches, and maybe take a short jog around the block before the game to get your blood circulating. You can even toss around the football in the back yard before the game gets started.
- Don’t overdo it. If you’re not someone who is in shape and exercises regularly (although you really should), make sure don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities. Your body might not be prepared to play the full game. Take breaks if you need to.
- Remember, you’re not a pro. Unless you happen to belong to the Manning family, there’s a good chance your family isn’t made up of pro football players. Football players train for years to be able to take hits and make complicated plays, so it’s best to leave those moves to the pros. It’s also very unlikely that your family has protective equipment like the pros wear. You don’t want to end up with a concussion or a strained neck and have to spend the rest of your holiday in the emergency room.
- Two-hand touch is the way to go. As we’ve just discussed, your family probably won’t be wearing protective gear for this game. Also, the game will likely include family members of different ages, sizes, and athletic abilities. Again, unless you want to spend the rest of the day in the emergency room, no tackling.
Follow these tips, and you should find that you have less back pain during your holiday events and activities. For more tips on spine health, follow me on Twitter @GlieberMD.