Dear Ross,

My work is very seasonal, involving lots of heavy lifting and worldwide delivery of goods in a very short space of time. Many deliveries are very physically demanding and I find that each year I am increasingly suffering with low back pain as a result. I am well past retirement age and not in the best shape (I have a big round belly!) but I don’t want to quit my job, so I would like some advice on helping my back pain this year.

Many thanks,

Mr. S. Claus

Thanks for your letter, Mr. Claus. Due to your age group, weight and the physical nature of your job, your low back pain may be due to wear and tear of the joints (osteoarthritis). Excessive use of these worn joints can cause a flare-up of inflammation, as well as tightening of the surrounding muscles, which can be very painful! However, there are certainly ways to manage the condition and reduce the frequency and severity of painful episodes.

It sounds like the nature of your work aggravates your back and, although you don’t want to stop working, there are things you can change about how you work. Instead of carrying a heavy sack of parcels over one shoulder, consider a good quality rucksack with adjustable back height and strap length – distributing the load more evenly across your back and shoulders will reduce the strain. Constant bending down to put parcels under trees will aggravate the wear and tear in your back, so try bending at the knees more, rather than making your back do all the work. Does your back ache when driving your delivery vehicle? Try adjusting the seat so that you aren’t reaching too far for the reigns and your low back is supported. If your seat doesn’t have an adjustable lumbar support, you can buy lumbar support cushions relatively inexpensively (or maybe your elves can make you one).

Being overweight increases the risk of back pain, so cutting down the calories and eating more healthily will help – losing just 4 pounds takes 16 pounds of pressure off your spine! Perhaps you could mostly snack on Rudolph’s carrots if you’re feeling peckish, enjoying mince pies as an occasional treat rather than indulging every time you stop to make a delivery.

You should find that a few small changes to your lifestyle and work habits will make a big difference to your back pain, meaning you’ll have a much merrier Christmas once you’ve finished your deliveries!

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Wishing all visitors to the Hub a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!

- Ross