Doctors warn of ‘holiday syndrome’ ahead of Seollal

Marian Chu  Published 2018.02.14  11:43  Updated 2018.02.14 11:44


Local hospitals advised people who prepare for lunar New Year’s Day celebrations to take note of and prevent common physical ailments that arise during the holidays, commonly referred to as “holiday syndrome.”

In Korea, relatives, close and distant, get together on Seollal, which falls on Friday this year, to celebrate the first day of the lunar calendar and to pay respects to their elders and ancestors. Holiday preparations in the past used to take at least a week for food, gifts, travel and accommodation preparation with women doing most of the domestic chores.

Local hospitals advise those preparing for Seollal to stretch, rest, and seek medical treatment to prevent and treat physical ailments resulting from the “holiday syndrome.”

But a shift from a community-based to individualistic society in modern Korea has simplified much of the holiday preparations. Some are opting to spend only a small portion of the three-day long holiday with their relatives and choosing to spend the rest in solitude or with friends.

Despite the relative drop in the amount of physically taxing activities, the hospitals warned those who will be cooking, cleaning or driving for long durations of the notorious holiday syndrome, citing some examples such as carpal tunnel syndrome, disk hernia, and back and joint pain, including degenerative arthritis.

Married women are particularly vulnerable to the holiday syndrome as they may expend too much physical and mental energy in undertaking domestic chores ahead of family gatherings, according to Good Doctor Hospital.

Women often spend long hours cooking meals and prepping snacks, continually setting the dining table, and washing the dishes at family gatherings. Those not used to the physically taxing activities may develop carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a medical condition that compresses the median nerve and is characterized by pain, numbness, and tingling in the fingers.

Carpal tunnel syndrome has been a big problem during and after the holidays. Some women even used the phenomenon to their advantage. A few years ago, the popularity of “fake” casts sold on online shopping malls exploded with fake arm casts costing around 15,000 won ($13.8) and leg casts costing about 20,000 won. These false casts were aimed to avoid the hard labor by pretending as if they were injured.

Men are also at risk, mainly when driving for an extended period. Many people drive to their hometown for several hours during the holidays. Long driving in a confined seat can put pressure on the neck and hip, resulting in back injuries among others, the hospital said.

The hospital recommended drivers maintain a good posture and stick to the “100-110-120” healthy driving formula. The rule goes that the car seat angle sits at 100 degrees, the elbows at 110 degrees and the knees at 120 degrees. The 100-110-120 method serves to decrease the pressure put on the spine, knees, and elbows, the hospital said. Drivers should also take rests along the way, it added.

Those in their 50s and 60s should pay attention to pains in shoulders before or after the holidays to eliminate the possibility of degenerative arthritis. Degenerative arthritis, formerly called osteoarthritis, is the most common joint disease and occurs mainly in middle-aged and elderly populations, according to Konkuk University Medical Center.

During the holidays, middle-aged women are often completing high-intensity domestic chores for a long time, causing pressure on the joints and exacerbating symptoms, according to Kim Hye-rim of the university hospital.

“If symptoms worsen, it’s necessary to alleviate the pain by getting rest and wearing an orthosis brace as well as applying heat to the area,” Kim said, recommending seeking out medical diagnosis and treatment as well as changing lifestyle habits.

<© KBR , All rights reserved.>