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Tips to prevent injury during your days/weeks of shopping

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (already) and it is time to start our yearly Christmas shop.  So, here are a few tips to keep away pre-existing aches and pains and prevent getting new injuries before Christmas.

Ditch the heels, ladies and gentlemen!

While I cannot deny there is nothing that completes an outfit like a pair of shiny shoes I think it is time to be a little more practical.

  • Firstly, think of the distance you are going to cover as you hunt for the best deal and continually change your mind.  Working up a mileage to rival the Sunday morning power-walkers has its health benefits, but if you are not used to it and you decide to do so in a pair of rigid or uncomfortable shoes, you are going to pay for it!
  • Secondly, no-one wants to become a viral YouTube sensation, which is precisely what will happen as you slip and slide across the wet leaves and icy floors this time of year.  If your footwear is smooth at the bottom you hugely increase your chance in a fall and a nasty injury.

 So, If you are hoping to avoid falls or perhaps developing plantar fascia (foot) problems you should go for comfort of style this time of year. If you have a pair of running shoes, gym shoes, walking boots or general trainers you find comfortable, great – you should use them!  Not only are they more forgiving on the soles of your feet, which will help reduce any aches and pains, but they are designed with more grip to prevent falls.

Use a partner

It is always much nicer to go Christmas shopping with company for several reasons. If we are thinking from an aches and pain perspective – even more so!

  • This gives you an opportunity to distribute the wealth of items you have purchased amongst you so that the weight is lighter and even.
  • This helps prevent that ghastly back ache that can come on following prolonged periods of walking with bags that are much to heavy for you to manage alone.
  • Also those ‘niggling’ necks will be less loaded giving them lesser reason to give you tension headaches and muscle pain.

Additionally, if you are in a shop and someone is not making a purchase then leave your bags with them so you can reduce the workload and discomfort in those lengthy queues.

Stop for coffee…and lunch…and coffee again!

Enforced rest is the theme of this tip…  You should break up the day into sizeable chunks so that you are only doing 1-2 hours at a time.  Plan coffee/tea/smoothie breaks in addition to taking the time to have lunch, because this will give you a great opportunity to let your muscles relax and recover.

Even with the workload distributed evenly amongst you and comfy shoes, if you are not a seasoned shopper, 2 or more hours of walking around with bags is going to take its toll on your neck, shoulders, low back and feet.

So, it is important to be sensible and give them a well earned rest every 1-2 hours for around 15-30 minutes before you continue your gift hunting shenanigans.

If you already have aches and pains

Are you suffering from plantar fasciitis, low back pain, RSI of the wrist or osteoarthritis?

  • If so it is worth using the enforced rest period tip, but perhaps reducing the time so that it is a little more specific to you.  Painful areas have a lower ability to tolerate work, therefore a way of tackling this and reducing the pain intensity for your shopping day(s) is to find out how much they’re happy to do (how far you can walk) before the pain kicks in and use this as your baseline. This is easily done with a stopwatch and most phones are blessed with such technology today!
  • Once you have your baseline figured out e.g 30 minutes (and then the pain is very sore), you should walk up to 30 minutes and then have a rest period for things to settle down. Over time you will look to build upon your baseline, but for your Christmas shopping use it as a well-earned pit stop.  Yes, it breaks up the day and may slow you down a little, but this is a small sacrifice for the sake of your wellbeing.

A few practical tips

Heel pain

Another suggestion would be to use a gel heel pad, which you can pick up in most supermarkets or on-line retailer and the idea is to reduce the impact on the heel.  This often results in an increase of your baseline for walking and a much more comfortable shoe.

Lower back pain

 If you are taking a bag with you and it is going to get relatively heavy then it is worth using a 2-strap rucksack and avoiding 1-strap holders or handbags.  This spreads the workload across both sides of the body rather than increasing the demand on just one side. If you use a 1-strap bag it may result in much quicker tiring off the muscles and onset/increase in pain.

How physiotherapy can help:

You will be much fitter and more prepared for your Christmas shopping If you are managing your aches and pains with rehabilitation exercises and perhaps manual techniques from your physiotherapist.

Physiotherapy provides targeted exercise prescription and manual treatment focusing on improving the strength and fitness of aggravated tissues often causing pain, fatigue and stiffness. Physiotherapy can increase the duration of walking, holding bags, standing and other physical feats before your pain sets in.

 Happy (gift) hunting during the festive period and from all of us here at Capital Physio; Merry Christmas and Have a Happy New Year!