Thursday, November 17, 2016

Don’t Over Do it on Thanksgiving: A Guide to Preventing Common Injuries

Thanksgiving is just a week away. It can be a dangerous holiday; I’m not kidding. After this contentious election, there are sure to be heated discussions, icy silences, and maybe even fisticuffs as Republicans and Democrats gather around the dinner table. But that’s not the danger I am talking about--hopefully thankfulness will win out over politics. Every year, a handful of my clients get hurt preparing Thanksgiving dinner. This article will prepare you so you can prevent injuries that would otherwise upset your holiday season.

Problem #1 – Take a 20 pound turkey, put it in a metal pan, load it with moist stuffing and you can be lifting more weight than you do at the gym. There is a good reason that the gym doesn’t have a weight bench or machine where you bend over as you twist to one side with your arms outstretched holding a heavy weight. That’s a recipe for straining your low back.
  • Possible Solution A – Appeal to the younger, stronger people who are lounging on the couch watching Dallas beat Washington. You’ve done the preparation, let them do the heavy lifting. Before the coin toss, let them know that they will need to hit pause to come into the kitchen and take the turkey in and out of the oven several times. There’s no free dinner!
  • Possible Solution B – Treat this task as a weight lifting exercise. Engage your core as you lean over. Bend your knees a little. Keep your arms as close to your sides as possible without burning yourself on the hot oven. And exhale as you lift or extend.
  • Possible Solution C – Cook a smaller turkey, maybe even a turkey breast or chicken to lighten the load.
Problem #2 – A dinner plate weighs about two pounds. If you are setting the table for a dozen people, that’s 20 or more pounds of plates. If you are like me, you’ll want to be efficient and carry all the plates in one stack with silverware piled on top. This little exercise can hurt your shoulders, your neck, your low back, or your knees, basically hitting the weakest link in your myofascial chain.
  • Possible Solution A – Take several trips and limit each load to a sufficient weight that you are building strength, but not enough to overload your body.
  • Possible Solution B – Follow the guidelines above for using your core and breath to help with the heavy lifting.
  • Possible Solution C – Call on the football fans to help. Maybe it’s the job of the people who are rooting for the team that’s currently in the lead. They don’t need to cheer as much.
Problem #3 – Dirty dishes and pots and pans don’t clean themselves. Most lumbar spines can handle leaning over a sink for only a short time before the ligaments and muscles wear out.
  • Possible Solution A – When leaning over keep your spine straight and bend at the hips. Draw your belly button in toward your spine to protect your low back. When you can’t hold this posture, take a break.
  • Possible Solution B – Avoid a dish washing marathon. Wash a few then sit down to watch a few first downs or Snoopy dressed up as a Pilgrim. Washing dishes only during commercials will give your back a break.
  • Possible Solution C – Start a new trend: Nice paper plates and silver could just be the next cool thing.
You might be the type of family that doesn’t watch football—or even television—on Thanksgiving. In that case, you should have plenty of unoccupied helpers to share the work of putting together and cleaning up after the feast. In terms of how to avoid getting injured in the after dinner family touch football game, I suggest that you take the role of coach.

After hours of planning and preparing for Thanksgiving, you deserve to take some rest time for yourself. Make time on the weekend for a restorative yoga class, a walk in the woods, or other activity that feeds your body, mind and spirit.


Margie Svrjcek said...

Thanks for the article Anita. I laughed when I saw the title of this article becauseI actually had two injuries as I was preparing Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I dropped a can of cranberries on my toe and jammed my little finger in the trash compactor. Both are healing up well and I am sure they both had something to do with the fact that there were 6 children there under the age of 5 and very chaotic! I was thinking of you just the other day as I hung the beautiful Christmas ornament that you brought to me from Germany several years ago now. I hope you are doing well and have a Merry Christmas! Margie

Anita Boser said...

It's great to hear from you, Margie, but sorry to hear about your injuries. I'm glad they weren't too serious. The little ones do create some chaos, but they are the best models for fluid movement.

Merry Christmas to you!!