Having a Happy, Healthy, PAIN-FREE, New Year

Everyone has returned from their summer break, hopefully rejuvenated for a new year.

As the Holidays approach everyone prepares differently.

Women prepare endless amounts of mouthwatering delicacies.

Children learn the do’s and don’ts in school.

Men get up early to attend selichos.

Chazzonim gargle raw eggs (…supposedly).

…and people with pain (in their back, knee, hip etc) wonder how they are possibly going to make it through all those hours of davening, much of it standing.

I wanted to share some tips to help those in pain get through this time of year.

Different parts of davening create different demands on the body. There are three basic areas to tackle. Sitting, standing and moving.

Much of davening is sitting. This can be of tremendous benefit to people with knee pain or spinal stenosis… but often causes difficulty for people with other types of back
pain (like SI joint dysfunction or herniated discs).

If sitting hurts your back, try placing a rolled up towel in the small of your back. Then, sit up as tall as possible allowing the towel to fill the gap between your back and the chair. If this helps relieve your pain it can be very helpful in shul.

However, keep in mind that this only works if the chair has adequate back support. This will not work in a folding chair which has an opening on the bottom… so plan accordingly.

Difficulty standing presents a very big challenge. We spend a lot of time standing on Yom Tov (both in shul and while cooking/cleaning etc.) and this can cause pain in the knees, hips or back.

The most obvious solution is to avoid standing. Since this isn’t always an option we will break down the suggestions based on where your pain is.

If you suffer from knee pain, you will likely have difficulty maintaining your knees in a locked position for an extended period of time. Even if you are able to remain that way, you may pay a steep price when you try to bend your knees after standing in one place for a long time.

To avoid this, shift your weight onto one leg and allow the other knee to bend. Then switch legs and allow the other leg to bend. Just unlocking the knee will provide much needed relief to the joint. Also, don’t wait for the stiffness to set in before trying this. This should be done periodically throughout the time you are standing to avoid the onset of pain.

Another great idea is to stand on a cushioned surface. Not too thick, just a small rug or foam pad, so the pressure on the knees will be diminished. (Standing on a hard floor for hours will put your knees through the wringer!)

The third potential problem area is while bending down. Obviously, the most serious issue is bending down to the floor and standing back up. This can hurt the knees and the back… It can also just be difficult to do.

First, to make the task easier, set yourself up for success.

Make sure there is a sturdy chair right next to you so you have what to lean on when trying to stand up.

If you know in advance that it will be difficult, ask someone to assist you. They will have the opportunity to do a mitzvah and you get a lift!

If you want to try and get down to the floor (and back up!) here are the steps:

  • Bend down and hold onto a chair with both hands
  • Supporting yourself on your hands and one leg, lower your other knee to the floor
  • Lower your other leg to the floor

To get back up…reverse the steps

  • Hold onto a chair and get onto both knees
  • Put your stronger leg forward so you are only on one knee
  • Use the leg you put forward to stand up while pushing on the chair.

This is not always easy to do. If you are unsure how this is done check out this video demonstration.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, PAIN-FREE new year!!