Physiotherapists warn Australians about avoiding common Christmas injuries

17 December 2014

With the festive party season in full swing and holidays just around the corner, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is urging everyone to take extra caution, providing tips on how to stay safe, injury-free and happy this Christmas.

APA National President Marcus Dripps warned that as many of us start making Christmas lists and checking them twice, it’s worth thinking of the gift that will keep on giving: your health.

“We see many common musculoskeletal conditions occurring over the Christmas break as people tend to push their bodies,” Mr Dripps said. “Whether it’s spraining your ankle in high heels at a Christmas party, a musculoskeletal injury from an intense run along the beach after months of inactivity, or low back pain from driving for long distances or lying poorly on the couch watching the Boxing Day Test – there are a range of injuries to watch out for this season.”

In order to enjoy a healthy and injury-free holiday, the APA is encouraging all Australians to focus on their health, both physically and mentally.

1. Avoid sitting for long periods
“The holiday season can be a time where many Australians spend lying on the couch recovering from a large Christmas lunch or spent driving long distances to holiday destinations,” Mr Dripps said. “With sitting now considered the new smoking, this inactivity can lead to short-term effects like low back pain, but is also linked to chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or even cancer[i].”
Physical inactivity or low levels of physical activity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide[ii]. APA National President Marcus Dripps says Australia’s increasingly sedentary culture is part of the complex and widespread problem of obesity and other related health diseases, which contributes to the death of more than 7200 people each year.[iii]

“Avoid sitting in one spot for more than 30 minutes without a short break. Get up and move about for at least two minutes every 20-30 minutes. Regular changes in posture have been shown improve comfort and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries,” he said.
“Ditch the remote this season and get up to change the channel when flicking between the Sydney to Hobart and the Boxing Day Test Match.”

2. Buy gifts that encourage physical activity
Active Healthy Kids Australia’s Report Card on Physical Activity for Children has identified that worldwide, children’s fitness has been declining at the rate of 3% to 5% per decade since 1970, with Australian kids now in the bottom third of the world in fitness and inactivity. [iv]
“This Christmas, rather than getting your kids an iPod, consider a present like a cricket bat or a netball that will encourage physical activity and ultimately leading to lifestyle choices in the long run,” Mr Dripps said.

3. Get active
“Sometimes the greatest gift of all can be spending time outdoors away from the glaring screens that dominate our lives. Getting a little more physical activity into your day doesn’t have to be a chore,” Mr Dripps said.
“Now’s also the time to dust off the bicycles and go for a ride, plan a bushwalk or simply limit your couch time get up and get moving. If unsure what physical activity is right for you or your child’s age and experience, physiotherapists can assess physical and motor development and suggest appropriate options.”

4. Start slowly and build up
To avoid any injuries from getting out and active, it’s best to start slowly and gradually build up Mr Dripps said. “Don’t try and deliver the ‘Jeff Thomson yorker’ on the first delivery of a backyard cricket match. Avoid doing things you wouldn’t normally do, and be mindful to take it easy if you have a previous injury and of your capabilities. Plan ahead and moderate your activities to reduce the chance of injuries.”

5. Don’t ignore the pain
If you do injure yourself over the holidays, don’t ignore the pain Mr Dripps warned. “If you have pain or swelling over the holidays, see your local physiotherapist – no referral is needed. Physiotherapists are highly qualified and trained to assess and treat all sorts of injuries and will help you get back on the beach again.”

For further information, or to speak with an expert physiotherapist, please contact:

Katie Croft - Australian Physiotherapy Association
P: (+61) 3 9092 0891 M (+61) 0413 780 545

About the Australian Physiotherapy Association

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is the peak body representing the interests of Australian physiotherapists and their patients. It is a national organisation with state and territory branches and specialty subgroups. The APA represents more than 16,700 members who conduct more than 21 million consultations each year. To find a physiotherapist in your area, visit

*ABS, 4839.0 - Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of Findings, 2013-14 Quality Declaration, Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/11/2014
[i] The Department of Health, Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour : Research and Statistics, accessed at
[ii] The Department of Health, Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour : Research and Statistics, accessed at
[iii] Commonwealth of Australia: Preventative Health Taskforce, 2009, ‘Australia: the Healthiest Country by 2020’ viewed at
[iv] Report Card, Report Card on Physical Activity for Children, the Active Healthy Kids Australia, 2014.