Just for fun, I started to think about whether or not Santa Clause would have back pain. Based on my knowledge as a Chiropractor, as well as my experience of treating back pain these are my thoughts.
I feel for Santa, he has a very important job to perform once a year. Thankfully, Santa has his elves helping him make all the toys for the boys and girls. It was smart of him to delegate some of the work. I imagine he has his people do most of the lifting, bending twisting etc. during the offseason. Smart! If he had to do all the work himself he would likely experience repetitive strain injuries in his wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck in addition to his lower back.
Sadly though, in the case of lower back pain, the odds are against Santa. Approximately 80% of people will have suffered from back pain at least once in their life. The occurrence rate is also high among those who have had a previous back injury. Right now about 20% of us have low back pain, this year 50% will have an episode and as mentioned above over the course of our lives 80% will have back pain. So Santa is in good company.
Here are some of the risk factors for back pain that Santa demonstrates.
Years ago Santa was a smoker. Just check out this Google search for images of Santa smoking. Smoking is one of the risk factors for back pain. People who smoke tend to experience degenerative disc disease of the spine at a higher frequency than those who don't. Santa may not be smoking now but the damage to his spine may have already been done. We have to assume that Santa doesn’t smoke now, on the other hand, he may be hiding it since he knows that it would be bad for his image as smoking has become less socially acceptable. In addition, smoking is associated with chronic pain which is often experienced by those who have had a back injury. How awkward would it be if Santa was on his own naughty list.
It is rather evident that Santa is overweight. Every time he laughs his belly jiggles like a bowl of Jello. The extra weight he carries places added strain onto all of his weight-bearing joints, including his spine and the intervertebral discs between his vertebrae. This added strain can lead to an intervertebral disc derangement/herniation and possibly lead to sciatica down his leg. With his extra weight in his belly, his spine needs to extend backwards so he can stay upright. This can cause abnormal compression onto the joints between the vertebra causing what is known as facet syndrome.
In addition, with Santa being overweight he may be suffering from Metabolic syndrome which has also been associated with lower back pain. Metabolic syndrome is linked to Type II diabetes. Considering all of the cookies that Santa consumes on Christmas Eve he likely has Type II Diabetes (He may want to learn how exercise can help with diabetes). Santa may also want to consider better eating habits.
Typically disc herniations occur around 25 and 45 years of age. Santa has been around for a long time. His origins begin back in the 4th Century. That would make him very old. One might assume that he is from a lineage of Santa Clauses and if that is the case, the white beard likely places him in his 60s or later. At this age, we are more concerned about the arthritis of the joints or even stenosis of the intervertebral foramen where the nerves exit the spine. Arthritis of the spine has sometimes been called “grey hair of the spine”. It is a natural process and thus it is highly probable to be found in Santa’s X-rays.
It is quite evident that for most of the year Santa is inactive. Or worse he does all his activity at once. Really Santa is the ultimate weekend warrior.
He likely has not performed any core exercises to aid in protecting his back and he likely doesn’t have the muscular strength or endurance to perform his job without fatigue. You would think that he needs considerable strength to hold the reins of his flying reindeer and to climb up the chimney after leaving from a house. Inadequate core strength and fatigue results in poor technique and can increase the chance of hurting your back. The problem with having to work only once a year is similar to the weekend warriors who only play on the weekend and do not exercise any other time of the week. Weekend warriors are often the ones who get injured.
Santa has to carry a heavy sac of toys. Carrying a sac over one shoulder (likely the same shoulder all the time because of our tendency to be one side dominant) places excessive strain on one said. This would likely result in muscular imbalance and ultimately back pain. He should follow the advice of a Chiropractor and use a backpack to evenly distribute the weight across both shoulders.
Truck drivers are often at risk for back pain one of the reason is due to the long sitting. They are even more at risk for a lower back injury if they go for long sitting to lifting activities. The intervertebral discs are more at risk for injury at this time. In addition, if Santa lifts with poor technique he is further risking himself for injury. Many people with back pain have poor movement patterns. One of the poor patterns is flexing forwards at the spine rather than at the hips. Since Santa appears to be an inactive individual we can assume his movement patterns may be faulty. He needs to learn how to hip hinge.
Stress is another risk factor for back pain. Santa likely gets very stressed with his job. He has billions of letters to read and he has to watch over every child making sure they are naughty or nice. The naughty kids must make him want to pull his hair out (I wonder if that is why he wears that hat all the time). For most of the year, his job must be pretty thankless. As Christmas Eve gets closer he has to make sure everything is perfect. In addition, he has a deadline that can’t be extended. He has to get presents to all the boys and girls before they wake up. If he doesn’t they won’t be very happy. He should try mindfulness meditation to help with his stress.
As you can see the odds of Santa having back pain are very high. Thankfully a number of these risk factors can be controlled while others are completely out of his control. I highly suggest to Santa that he should seek out some help in managing his weight, developing his core, and developing his strength and endurance.
There are great Chiropractors out there who can help. In addition, he may want to try massage, Active Release Techniques, or acupuncture to help manage the back pain. With a good team of healthcare providers, he could manage your back pain more effectively.
Do you have any of these risk factors for back pain and do you have back pain? If so you may want to become proactive in your health seek out a health care professional that you can trust and start your New Year on the road to recovery.
Have a Merry Christmas! And a Happy Holiday!
Special thanks to Chris Notley for sharing this post.