Things to Buy to Heal your Body from the Holiday Rush
The holidays are one of my favorite times of the year to be behind the bar. You get to entertain people that are generally in a very festive mood, they are usually a little more generous than the rest of the year and I’m just plain busier than usual. This means good things for tips, but this also means that my body is going to take a heavier beating than normal.
Chances are that Santa won’t be bringing you any gifts that will help relieve your bumps and bruises from your time behind the stick, but since you are making a little more money than the rest of the year, this could be a good opportunity to buy a few things for yourself to help repair your beaten, crippled body. (I hear you groan every time you stand up. I know what it’s like!)
Saving your Arms
When I think about bartender injuries, the arms and wrists are the first things I think about. Repetitive stress injuries are a really common ailment behind the stick – with all of the shaking, stirring, bending, and lifting we do!
Pouring drinks can put a ton of strain on your wrists and this could be one of the first areas that you may notice pain. It isn’t practical to have a giant wrist strap that is meant for carpal tunnel when working behind the bar, but something a little more discreet and “athletic” looking could be just the key.
The WristWidget is something I wore behind the bar that served me really well. It’s not a robust support system, but if you are working in a fine dining environment and you want to be discreet, this could be just the ticket for you.
If you need something a little more substantial, consider looking at a wrist strap that provides even more support like the BraceUP compression strap. You could probably still conceal this brace under long sleeves while working, but it still provides you a ton of mobility without having to wear a brace that immobilizes your wrist.
If tennis elbow seems to be flaring up during the holidays, resting for a few weeks while it repairs itself may not be an option. While it’s not as good as rest, a tennis elbow brace can help a lot. These will help to put a little pressure on your elbow and help you get through your shift.
If you need a little more pressure on your joint, take a look at this strap from BioSkin. It definitely beats having to fold up a bar napkin and placing it under your brace. (Not that I’ve done that, or anything… ahem.)
If you got a nickel for every time you had to bend over the well, you wouldn’t need to pull too many bar shifts before you could buy an island somewhere and retire. The taller you are, the worse it can be for you. Adding a back brace under your uniform can help take some of the pressure of bending over a well for 8 hours. At the very least it can be a constant reminder to mind your posture!
Something for your Aching Legs / Feet
If you are lucky enough to get a “state mandated break” you may get the opportunity to get off your feet for a few minutes, but for the most part, we bartenders are highly active on our feet throughout a shift. (or even back to back shifts.) The good news is, there are a lot of options for relief!
If you haven’t already invested in a good pair of work shoes, there’s no day like today. Dansko’s have made a name for themselves in the hospitality industry for being one of the best shoes if you spend a lot of time on your feet. They aren’t glamorous (by far) but they have options for both men and women and these have saved my feet on many a long shift.
Unfortunately if you need something a little more formal (but that is also slip and oil resistant), the options are pretty limited. That said, I have found that Shoes For Crews offers up a nice selection of different brands and the site allows you to filter for slip resistant shoes.
After a good pair of work shoes, the next thing to invest in are great socks. Compression socks add pressure to your legs and keep the blood moving. If your legs get tired after a few hours, consider investing in a few pairs of compression socks.
As an alternative, (or a way of testing whether they’d help before investing the money), consider wearing a pair of ankle high athletic socks followed by a tight pair of dress socks. The athletic socks will add some cushion while the dress socks will add the compression that helps with circulation. Wearing two socks at once makes laundry SUPER annoying, but again – my feet were grateful and it was worth it!
If you don’t feel like spending a ton of money on expensive work shoes, or just need additional support, take a look at adding good quality orthotic insoles to your current shoes. They make all kinds of different styles of insoles to help with a number of problems. From general purpose insoles to anti-fatigue insoles and even insoles to help with plantar fasciitis – there are a lot of options out there that are definitely worth trying.
Recovery & Prevention
The best recipe for avoiding an injury in the first place is to focus on being in good physical health. Stretching and strength training can go a long way for not only keeping you on top of your game, but the benefits also show up in your overall mental outlook. I’m not a doctor, but I definitely felt like my body could handle the holidays a lot better when I found the time to keep up at the gym.
If that ship has already sailed and you’re already hurting, see if you can work with your doctor and/or physical therapist on a range of exercises that will help to build surrounding muscles and stretches to prevent further injuries. Listen in to this great conversation we had with physical therapist Dr. Karena Wu for some great suggestions for avoiding injury as well.
Joining a local gym or yoga studio can help with either of these scenarios and is a good way to keep you motivated and focused on your physical health.
Be Easy on Yourself
I know it’s easier said than done this time of year, but in a physical job like bartending, your health is the most important thing. Working through injuries with braces and splints is a good way to make a small treatable problem into a serious long term one. If you’re in pain, prioritize seeing a doctor and work with your management team to make sure you have the R&R you need. After all – they don’t want you making a workers’ comp claim anymore than you want a long term injury!
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