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Send Back Pain Packing This Holiday Season

Dr. Peter Moley of Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Peter Moley of Hospital for Special Surgery. Photo Credit: HSS

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Dr. Peter Moley, a physiatrist at the HSS Stamford Outpatient Center in Stamford, sees a notable increase in patients suffering from back pain around the holidays. It often gets worse this time of year, as depression and stress as can cause unwanted pain.

Research shows that emotional stress or mental pain can turn into physical pain. Depression and stress deplete certain brain chemicals that play a role in controlling pain. When these chemicals are diminished, pain worsens, he explains.

Moley offers the following tips to maintain spine health and enjoy the holidays pain-free:

  • Keep things in perspective.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough rest.
  • If a package is heavy, ask for help in lifting; if you do lift, remember to bend from the knees.
  • Slow down, take breaks and don’t overdo it.
  • Stay focused on the task at hand and be mindful to avoid an accident.
  • Don’t neglect your exercises and stretching during the holiday season.
  • Don’t ignore initial symptoms or say, “I don’t have time to attend to my pain.”

If you do develop back pain, Moley advises resting for two days and taking an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen after consulting with your physician. If the pain is not better in two days, or if you have sharp, excruciating pain that radiates down your leg, see a doctor.

“The doctor should spend ample time with you,” Moley says, “taking a good medical history, performing a physical exam and ordering appropriate diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, to get to the root of the problem and prescribe an individualized treatment plan.”

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