Decorating your house for Christmas is usually a fun, family-centred activity. Most people put Christmas music on, drink hot chocolate and have a variety of snacks while we decorating. As fun as putting decorations up is, taking them down is not nearly as exciting. You can drive down almost any street on the hottest day in July and still see Christmas lights on the roofs of houses and we all have that friend who keeps their Christmas tree up until Easter. At whatever point you decide to take down your decorations, there are certain guidelines you should use to reduce your risk of injuring yourself. It is estimated that more 13,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for injuries during November and December 2010 in the United States that were Christmas decorating related. This is up from 10,000 in 2007 and 12,000 in 2008 and 2009 (Warren, 2011).
The most important thing you can do is pace yourself while taking down the decorations. Instead of making it a day event, make it a week-long event. Try doing a different task every day. On day one, remove the decorations from the Christmas tree. On day two, take apart the Christmas tree (if it is fake) or throw the real tree away and clean up the mess. On day three, take down all the decorations from around the house (garland, figurines, etc.). On day four, tackle the outdoor lights and decorations. As you take down the decorations and fill up boxes, bring them to the storage area right away. This avoids having to lug half a dozen boxes to storage all at once when you’re finished. When you pace yourself, it can save you the grief of re-aggravating an old injury or developing a new one.
It is also imperative that you avoid overreaching while taking down the decorations. Try to work at or below shoulder height and keep the work as close to your body as possible. The repetitive motion of lifting the arm above the head (especially when lifting a weight) can lead to an injury over time. When you reach for something, the shoulder extends forward and this position stretches the muscle groups towards the middle and top of the shoulder and the neck. This can cause anything from muscle spasms to fatigue to stiffness. A great way to avoid overreaching for items is to use a ladder.
However, they are only beneficial when they are used safely. During the holiday season, of everyone who was admitted to the hospital emergency department, 43% of injuries were from falling off a ladder (Stevens and Vajani, 2004). When using a ladder to remove Christmas lights or to get on top of your roof, make sure the ladder is secure and there is somebody steadying the ladder for you as you climb. If you are using a step ladder to reach high areas in your house, make sure to buy one that can support your weight. Ensure that before you climb the steps, it is placed in a sturdy position. Never use a ladder when you are home alone because in case you did fall and hurt yourself, you will need to call for help.
It is easy to injure yourself when taking down Christmas decorations but it is also easy to prevent these injuries from happening. Follow these straight forward pieces of advice and you will increase your chances of having an injury-free holiday season!
Stevens, J. & Vajani, M. (2004). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Fall-Related Injuries During the Holiday Season. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5348a1.htm
Warren, L. (2011). Mail Online. ‘Tis the Season to be Cautious: Christmas Decorations on the Rise. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2073726/Tis-season-cautious-Christmas-decorating-injuries-rise.html