Tips to avoid back pain during Thanksgiving

David Donald

From cooking a smorgasbord of sweet and savory treats to playing a pick-up family football game to braving the Black Friday bonanza the day after, back pain can crop up at any time during the busy Thanksgiving holiday if you are not taking the necessary precautions.

Safeguard your back this Thanksgiving holiday weekend by following some of these helpful tips:

A Painful Turkey Mistake

There are more than a dozen mistakes anyone can make in preparing, cooking and serving a turkey.

  • Waiting too long to buy a turkey
  • Waiting until the last minute to thaw the turkey ( it takes about four hours)
  • Not using a roasting pan
  • Using the wrong thermometer
  • Carving the turkey incorrectly
  • and many more

But there is one mistake no one thinks about: lifting the turkey the wrong way.

This mistake can wreck your back and the pain could have lasting effects well into the weekend after all your dinner guests have left. The pain, or course, may pass with a little rest, but the key is to avoid back pain altogether.

Tips to Avoid Back pain Good Morning Squat
Good Morning Squat

A Butterball turkey can weight up to 32 pounds. The roasting pan and rack adds at least another 10 pounds.  When lifting more than 40 pounds you should always ensure you are using the correct form to avoid injury.

Perform a “Good Morning” squat when grabbing a turkey out of the grocer’s freezer or your own refrigerator.   The proper execution is hinging at the bend in our groin (hips), slightly bending the knees, leaning our erect torso forward and over our feet, which really puts the tension on our hip and spine muscles. Use this squat again when you move your turkey from the counter into the oven.

You can also ask a family member or friend to help pick up the turkey.

Take a Load Off to Avoid Back Pain


Preparing and cooking a Thanksgiving feast can be a marathon session. Standing while peeling and chopping vegetables can strain the muscles in the legs and back and compress the spinal discs

  • Don’t do all the cooking. Involve your family and friends in the holiday meal preparations
  • Wear comfortable and supportive shoes that keep your knees, hips and pelvis aligned
  • Sit down to peel potatoes or chop carrots
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. Start a day or two ahead of time to reduce stress on your legs and back muscles.

The Big Game

If there is anything just as big as turkey and pumpkin pie during Thanksgiving, it’s American Football. After a year of inactivity, many people think they will be okay jumping into play a holiday family football game. This is just asking for a potential lumbar strain or other back injury. The best thing you can do is to know your limits. Instead of running out to catch a forward pass, consider cheering from the sidelines or refereeing the game. If you really want to play, the best thing you can do is condition your body all year long by stretching and exercising.

Avoid back pain on Black Friday

Standing in long lines, wading through large crowds  and carrying heavy shopping bags from store to store can take a toll on the back. Here are few tips to avoid back pain during the busiest shopping day of the year.

  • If you plan on waiting in line in the early morning hours before the stores open, bring a chair and sit while you wait.
  • Be Vigilant. Keep an eye on the crowd and how it’s moving. People have been seriously injured in Black Friday crowds.
  • Go with family and friends . They can help carry bags and navigate through the large crowds.
  • Stay home Black Friday. Instead, look for great deals online.

Thanksgiving is a time to cherish family and friends and to give thanks for the wonderful things in our life, not for nursing a back injury. Following these tips can help reduce the probability of injuring your back.

From the BioSpine Institute, we wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving Holiday.


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