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Tips to Avoid Joint Pain From Holiday Shopping

Shopping Bags

How many of you are gearing up for the shopping season? This is the time of year when we are bombarded with ads for great holiday deals. If you’ve had a recent joint replacement (within the past 6 months), or even if you have some mild or moderate arthritis, it might be wise to exercise some restraint before heading out into a shopping marathon. Nothing in physical therapy can possibly prepare one for the rigors of holiday shopping. However, there are a couple of helpful ideas that might make it less arduous:

Limit Your Exposure to Crowds
Although it may be tempting to take advantage of those door busting deals at 6 or 7 am, you would probably experience less contact at the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. It would be better to wait a few hours until the late morning or early afternoon and avoid the speak crowds. Getting banged around in a crowd is not advisable for anyone who’s had a recent joint replacement or who has arthritis, even to save 40%.

Limit your shopping time to a few hours
It is tempting to spend all day in the stores and not miss a deal, but too many hours on your feet will lead to muscle fatigue and swelling for someone with a recent joint replacement, or inflammation from weight bearing for someone with lower extremity arthritis.

Take frequent breaks
Sit down and rest every hour for 10 minutes. Waiting on lines at registers could easily wind up taking 30 minutes, so plan your shopping strategically. Find benches to sit on for 10 minutes, get a light snack, and don’t get stuck on your feet for several hours without a break.

Limit the amount you are carrying
If you carry a package or bag in your hand that is even just 15% of your body weight you increase the reaction force and load on the opposite hip joint to 4x body weight. It is better to carry a package on the SAME side as a hip or knee that is arthritic or has had recent surgery to minimize the reaction forces. At the minimum distribute your package/purchases evenly, and consider delivery if it is something heavy (more than 10 lbs). Also, you may want to consider a push cart or something with wheels to carry your items.

Consider putting some ice on the hip or knee that typically acts up
Although it may not bother you immediately, you may feel the effects the next day. 15-20 minutes of ice can greatly reduce the chances of feeling pain. Most importantly, if you need some pointers on the right exercises to keep the hip, knee, or anything else strong, don’t hesitate to see your doctor and ask for a physical therapy prescription. Physical therapists are the experts in giving you safe and effective exercises after a joint replacement or for arthritis. If you really want to avoid the perils of crowds and being on your feet too long, take advantage on online shopping. Thankfully, nowadays you will find most of the same deals available in stores available online, without ever having to leave the safety of your home. Happy shopping!

Reviewed on November 21, 2019


Lee Rosenzweig is a doctor of physical therapy, certified hand therapist, and orthopedic clinical specialist at HSS Sports Rehabilitation and Performance West Side.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.