The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but amid all the holly jolly magic, accidents can happen. Many holiday hazards are related specifically to sprucing up and getting ready for the season. After all, when you’re gearing up to have the entire family over to celebrate and there are halls to deck, Christmas cards to write, and holiday cooking to do, it’s easy to neglect the care you take in moving safely. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season compromise your health!
Here are some of the most common holiday-related injuries and how you can avoid them:
- Falling from a ladder
While everyone loves a well-decorated house, those exterior lights and décor can easily land you in the hospital for the holidays. Often, people will try to overextend themselves and put up all the holiday lights without assistance, which means serious danger. One wrong move on a shaky ladder, and you’re looking at an extensive orthopaedic injury. According to Dr. Isbell, ladder injuries are unfortunately common injuries seen around the holidays and can range from sprains and contusions to significant fractures and potentially even life or limb-threatening injuries. The lower extremities are most affected, but we often see injuries to the head and spine. Fractures of the lower extremity sustained from a fall will often require surgical treatment with plates and screws to stabilize broken bones. To avoid a tumble, make sure to enlist help from a trusted friend, your spouse, or a neighbor. Always make certain someone holds the ladder for you while you’re decking your halls or stringing those dazzling lights.
- Lifting too heavy
During the holidays, it’s easy to try to hulk heavy objects like you’re Santa himself. Whether it’s carrying a heavy gift without help, trying to haul that huge Christmas ham into the oven without properly bending your knees, or dragging a Christmas tree into your home all alone, these well-intentioned do-it-yourself gestures can result in muscle strains to herniated discs with resultant pinching of nerves causing significant, debilitating pain that last long after December 25th. Don’t hesitate to ask for help and be sure to incorporate the strength of your legs instead of having your back do all the work.
- Writing Christmas cards
It may seem farfetched, but that stack of Christmas cards that you’re planning on writing all in a weekend can cause a common condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome can result from excessive hand and wrist use and cause pain as well as numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers. This can make it difficult to use your hands and is often worst at night, disrupting sleep. Treatment for this is usually a period of avoidance of aggravating activities and night splints. To keep your hands in good working order, make sure to give yourself 10- to 15-minute breaks for every hour you plan on writing and stretch out your hands every time you get a break.
- Slipping on ice
The holiday weather is something magical—whether it’s a flurry of snow or a glint of frost—but all that beauty can pose disaster. When you’re walking in a winter wonderland, it’s easy to slip on a patch of disguised ice and fall hard. Sustaining a fall onto a hard surface can result in minor to severe injury. Commonly seen injuries include minor scrapes or contusions as well as fractures of the hip and wrist. While minor injuries can be treated with symptomatic management, hip and wrist fractures very often require surgical treatment such as the placement of plates and screws in the wrist or a hip replacement to fix a broken hip. This season, be sure to wear slip-resistant shoes or boots and tread very carefully in freezing conditions to avoid a spill. One tip is to “walk like a penguin,” which basically means traversing flat-footed with feet spread wide to maintain a strong center of gravity while keeping your arms free and by your sides.
Holiday accidents happen—even to the most careful among us—so it’s important to have a team of orthopaedic specialists on your side if an injury occurs. We are here at Southlake Orthopaedics ready to tackle whatever strains, sprains, and pains come your way and can get you the care you need, tailored to your specific needs. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule an appointment.
By: Jonathan Isbell, MD, Sports Medicine Surgeon