Seasonal Stress and Pain

Well, it’s Christmas time, and according to Cliff Richard, “It’s a time to rejoice in the good that we see”.  For those of you that can’t remember the chorus, here it is…

Christmas time, Mistletoe and Wine
Children singing Christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time to rejoice in the good that we see


Or, how about my version?  For the musical amongst you this should be easy; for the rest, try humming Cliff’s version first!

Christmas time, stress and wine

Too much to do, and not enough time

With cards to write, and presents to wrap

A time full of stress, pain and feeling cr**


Sorry, it’s not that I’m baah humbug, it’s just that I see particular effects of Christmas in the extra pain that people experience around this time of year.  Why is that?  Why does the Christmas period result in more people complaining of more lower back pain, more headaches etc.  more of the time?

More Stress

People expect more from life at this time of year… we want to party more, and fit 4 weeks of work into two and a half weeks (less if you party during the day too), but it’s winter (here in the Northern Hemisphere), so our natural rhythm would be to sleep more.  So our expectations are high and we do our best to match them – this puts us under a lot more pressure than in most other months of the year.  We become increasingly aware that our days are not as enjoyable as we would like, and this raises our anxiety levels.  We’re not spending time with the people that matter most to us, and for those of us with pre-existing pains…

Stress and Pain

Pre-existing pain is like a lightning rod for stress.  If you have a tendency to lower back pain, or headaches (or any physical pain), stress will find it and aggravate it.  The nerve pathway for your pain is magnified by the effects of stress; adrenalin (which you produce more of when stressed) facilitates the passage of pain messages to your brain.

“Wine”, Sleep and Pain

It could be Cliff’s wine, or any other alcoholic drink; it’s not good for sleep.  Sleeping poorly is directly correlated with more pain.  So, boozing, sleeping poorly and having more pain are natural bed-fellows!

The Physical Stresses

Exercise (walking, gym, swim etc), is our normal antidote to long days in the office; but this gets squeezed out at this time of year.  This leads to stiffening up and an awareness that we’re losing fitness, and guess what that causes?  Anxiety that we’re getting out of shape aaaaand… more stress and pain!!  Long drives to visit relatives/friends are a particularly good way to get more lower back pain too.

Top Tips

So, it’s hardly surprising that Christmas brings with it pain and suffering.  So, top tips for minimising pain this Christmas?

  • Keep active
  • Drink in moderation
  • Don’t take on too much – quality not quantity
  • Meditate (more on this next year!)

I wish you all the best for the Christmas holiday season, and the next post will be in 2014.  We’re moving house next week so it’s unlikely I’ll be writing then; not unless I want to experience my own particular kind of stress-induced pain. 😉

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