Back pain advice for Santa

Shuaib Karmani

Christmas is coming and for most of us that means a break from work and, just maybe, a chance to put your feet up. Not if you are Santa Claus though – he will be facing a mountain of backbreaking work and as he's no longer a spring chicken, could suffer the consequences later. Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Shuaib Karmani, a specialist in back problems, has some advice to help Santa avoid aches and pains over the festive season.

“Santa is certainly a prime candidate for back problems. He’s not as young as he was and, like many older people, may suffer from stiff joints in cold weather. He also carries a bit of excess weight which puts more pressure on the joints. So before he even thinks about harnessing the reindeer, he needs to prepare his body so that it is fit for his marathon flight around the world on Christmas Eve. Losing a bit of weight and incorporating a gentle exercise routine into his daily activities will help strengthen muscles and joints.

When packing the sleigh, Santa needs to take great care otherwise he may find himself in pain throughout the trip. Tempting though it must be to load up as quickly as possible, lifting heavy weights while pivoting the body can cause an injury. Santa needs to remember to lift with his legs not his back, to bend his knees and keep his back straight while rising. For heavy presents he should use one hand to lift from the underneath rather than trying to pick it up with two hands from the top – or, preferably, get the elves to help.

Santa faces the prospect of a good many hours cooped up in his sleigh, so he needs to be mindful of his driving position. If he hunches over the reins, he will soon feel the tension in his shoulders which could lead to pain later on. He should make sure that his seat is properly adjusted and comfortable before setting off so that he can maintain good posture throughout the journey.

Even if he is running late, he shouldn’t allow the reindeer to bolt off as a racing start could jar his neck, causing whiplash.

Santa’s trademark sack is another potential hazard and I would rather see him transporting the presents in a wheelbarrow or handcart as this would be much better for his back. But if a sack it must be, then he shouldn’t over-fill it and must remember to lift it carefully - certainly not swing it – on to his shoulder.

My last bit of advice for Santa is to take a break every now and then and I don’t mean sitting down to plateful of mince pies and a glass of port. A few gentle stretches and shoulder exercises every now and then should help to keep his muscles from over tensing.

If on return to the North Pole he finds his back is aching and his neck is sore, then he should take it easy. He will probably find that his pain will settle with simple treatments like over the counter anti-inflammatories. But if it persists, he may need to seek advice from his GP who may refer him to a back specialist for further tests and treatment.

Happy Christmas!