‘Tis the season to be injured: over one in four hurt at Christmas

25 December 2017
  • Over one in four (27%) suffer an injury to their muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones over Christmas
  • Nearly half (48%) tear or strain a muscle
  • Two thirds of injuries are a result of slipping on ice 

Christmas shopping bags

It’s meant to be a time to wind down, but millions could instead be laid up with an injury as one in four (27%) hurt themselves1 at Christmas – with decorating the tree or carrying presents leading to injury for many, according to findings from Bupa. 

The majority of injuries (84%) occur in our back, neck or knees and as the result of this mishap, nearly half (48%) tear or strain a muscle.  As people travel around the country to stay with relatives and friends, many will be sleeping on a makeshift bed, resulting in ten per cent hurting their neck or back. 

Slipping on ice and snow is the main culprit for Christmas injuries, with over three million people injuring their back after such a fall2. The second cause is tripping over the likes of Christmas presents and wires running along the floor including fairy lights and extension cords. 

A muscle tear or strain can take up to six weeks to heal, which means someone who suffers an injury today may still be recovering well into the New Year.  Here are the most common causes of Christmas injuries in the UK:

1     Slipping and falling on ice and snow (63%)
2     Tripping over festive items which aren’t usually there (e.g. Christmas lights cord) (19%)
3=   Wrapping presents and putting up decorations (14%)
3=   Carrying too much food shopping (14%)
5     Dancing (12%)
6=   Sledding/ skating (11%)
6=   Buying and carrying the Christmas tree (11%)
6=   Sleeping on a friend or relative’s pull-out bed or sofa (11%)
6=   Carrying too many presents (11%)
10    Decorating the tree (9%)

To help people keep on their feet throughout the festive season, Bupa’s musculoskeletal expert, Damian McClelland shares his advice for a merry (injury-free) Christmas:

1. Dress for winter – Wrapping up in plenty of layers and warm clothes will decrease your risk of cold muscles that are more likely to injure. 
2. Teamwork – Collect your Christmas tree and food shopping as a family or with friends to balance out the heavy load and put less pressure on your back and knees.
3. Stay tidy – While it’s easy to get carried away with wrapping presents, decorating the Christmas tree and covering the house with fairy lights and tinsel – keep tidying up after yourself, to avoid any trips and falls. 
4. Slow down – With so much to do in the run up to Christmas it’s common to rush around buying presents, food and planning social events but if you take a moment to slow down you’ll be less likely to injure yourself 
5. Warm up – Cold muscles are more prone to injury so consider doing a few warm up exercises such as marching on the spot, a series of knee lifts and bend and shoulder rolls. This will increase blood flow to the muscle making it more supple and flexible. 

Damian McClelland, Clinical Director of Musculoskeletal Services at Bupa UK continues: “Many of us rush around at this time of year – whether we’re on a mission to create the perfect Christmas or carrying out related chores.  This can put a physical strain on our bodies so I always remind patients not to overdo it and lift with their knees rather than their back and share the load. 

“Cold weather also increases the risk of a muscle strain or tear.  My advice is, do some warm up exercises before you head out in to the cold as it’ll make your muscles supple which helps reduce your risk of causing a serious injury.” 
Bupa offers a self-referral service – Direct Access, which gives those suffering with back and joint issues access to musculoskeletal specialists such as a physiotherapist or osteopath without needing a GP referral.

For more information about Direct Access MSK visit: www.bupa.co.uk/direct-access 

About the research
Opinium Research on behalf of Bupa independently surveyed 2,000 people online in November 2017. The total sample size was 2,004 UK adults aged 18+ years old. Results are weighted to nationally representative criteria.
An injury to their muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones over Christmas
2 127 of the 2004 surveyed reported that they’d slipped on ice or snow and hurt their back. This equated to six per cent of the population, or 3,280,642.

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

With no shareholders, our customers are our focus. We reinvest profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers.

We have 15.5 million health insurance customers, provide healthcare to around 14.5 million people in our clinics and hospitals, and look after over 23,300 aged care residents.

We employ over 78,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, Chile, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the USA, Brazil, the Middle East and Ireland, and many more through our associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

Health insurance is around 70% of our business. In a number of countries, we also run clinics, dental centres, hospitals and care homes and villages.

For more information, visit www.bupa.com

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