Holiday stress can result in physical pain

Ask the Experts by David Gilboe

Q: My body gets really sore during the holidays and I feel a lot of stress.  What do you suggest I do to help reduce the pain?

A: While there is definitely more bending, lifting, reaching and standing during the holidays (which can result in physical pain), many of us forget the toll that stress can place on our bodies and how this by itself creates or increases pain.

More times than not, we aren’t aware of the tension we are holding in our bodies. For example, when traffic is backed up or you are standing in a long line at the store, do you make time to notice your feelings?  If you are feeling frustrated or anxious this will often create tightness in your muscles and rigidity in your posture.  The first step towards easing the stress, begins with you making the decision to pay attention to what you are feeling in your muscles.

Once you have turned your attention to your emotions and where you are experiencing physical tension, make a point of mentally registering it. Then, tighten the muscles in this area on purpose, hold for about 3 seconds and then release it.  When you let go, your mind will register the difference between active tension and relaxation and immediately begin to respond.

To continue decreasing the tension, repeat the process of tightening and relaxing several times. With each cycle, decrease the amount of force you use.  You will notice your muscles discharging tension and often you will find yourself taking deep relaxing breaths as a natural part of this healthy practiceOne of the best parts of this simple process is that it can be done almost anywhere; standing or sitting, engaged in a conversation or waiting.

We suggest using this simple process throughout the holiday season. Your awareness alone will be very helpful in reducing pain and give you a chance to enjoy the true spirit of the holidays with your loved ones!

David Gilboe, PT is the President and Owner of David Gilboe & Associates, PC. David Gilboe and Associates have been providing physical and occupational to members of our community since 1979. Dave can be reached at or 586.779.8892. David Gilboe & Associates is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.

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