Step away from the keyboard

Posted: April 8, 2014 in writing life
Tags: , , , ,

So much for the romanticised pain of the writer’s craft, grappling with wild internal passions in a bohemian loft apartment. The real pain of the writer’s craft comes in your shoulders.

I’ve been getting aches in my shoulders and neck on and off for months now. Thanks to Laura I realised that this was also causing me headaches, and at long last yesterday she dragged me to the physiotherapist.

Holy cow. I have never had such a painful and yet strangely satisfying experience in my life. After an hour of vigorous pummelling and sage advice, my muscles feel looser, freer and more relaxed than they have in months.

The small of my back feels like it’s been stamped on by an elephant, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

The most disconcerting part came when the physio compared the muscles along my shoulders with bubble wrap, as she went through the process of pressing out those bubbles. The very painful process.

Hey Paul

I do not want a body comparable with flimsy packaging kids destroy for fun.

Of course all of this comes from sitting at a computer all day, posture deforming my muscles over long years of office and home based work. I now have exercises to balance that out, and I swear by Tolkien, Asimov and Banks, I will do those exercises every damn day to avoid a time when I get this bad again.

So please, in the name of all that is good and holy (or wretched and despicable, whatever does it for you) if you work at a keyboard and you’re starting to get those aches, go see a professional now. Sort it out sooner rather than later, get those exercises in early, and save yourself much pain down the line.

Now excuse me, I need to stop hunching over my keyboard for ten minutes.


Picture by Hey Paul via Flickr creative commons

  1. In my case, the pain came in the right wrist, during the second year of my degree. I’m happy to say that a quick chat with my GP was all that I needed. Mind you, these days I have an ergonomic keyboard and a much greater awareness of the importance of avoiding RSI 😉

    • You really are a trailblazer Russell, even getting your injuries in early on!

      I’ll definitely be looking at a more ergonomic setup once I’ve got a suitable space for it. Apparently there are even desks these days designed to improve your posture, and an ergonomic mouse makes any workplace look more like a space fighter control system. Pew Pew Pew!

      • That’s one trail I would have been happy to leave others to blaze 🙂 Mind you, I was a mature student (technically – according to Jen I wasn’t a mature anything), so I was about 30 when I got RSI.

        • I believe it was Nietzsche who said that true maturity comes in finding the seriousness we had as a child at play.

          Which is just a philosopher’s way of saying that maturity is over-rated.

  2. everwalker says:

    Any chance you could describe some of those exercises?

    • For me, they’re mostly about pulling my shoulders back. Regular use strengthens those muscles, balancing the hunching forward muscles at the front.

      BUT* this is very dependent on your own personal situation. Laura also has back and shoulder problems exacerbated by desk work, and she has to do a different set of exercises for a different set of muscles. Given that it’s about balancing your own body, it really is worth seeing a physio at least once.

      * I’d make a joke about how I ‘like big buts’, but I hate that song. So just pretend I said something smart and funny instead, OK?

  3. malwen says:

    I understand just what you’re saying Andy. I used to get sharp pains at the junction of neck and shoulders until a friend at my yoga class said that she was a beautician, and could give me a facial and shoulder massage which would help.I have been going to her salon regularly for years now. I still get some stiffness between sessions but I never get that sharp pain now. I hope the exercises work well for you.

  4. G.B. Koening says:

    I feel your pain, literally! sadly, I’m going through the same back and neck issues. The pharmaceutical companies are making a fortune off of me! The price we pay for making art, eh?

  5. G.B. Koening says:

    ( Er, that last sentence sounded a bit pompous. How about “The price we pay for getting those darn stories out of our heads!” There, that’s better. More psychotic but much less pompous!)

  6. Sara Norja says:

    I’ve been seeing a physiotherapist for the past year, and it’s made a huge difference. I have several sets of exercises that I do daily. I have dance classes and cycling to keep me somewhat mobile, but pretty much all the other stuff I do (both work and hobby-wise) are sedentary. The importance of neck/back exercises for a writer (or, indeed, anyone) can’t be overestimated. Also, I loooove my adjustable desk. I’m typing this comment while standing, and when my legs get tired I can lower the desk and sit down again 🙂

    • Sounds like you’ve got a really good routine there – something for me to aspire towards. I’m considering getting one of those adjustable desks in the future – do you have any recommendations for picking the right one?

      • Sara Norja says:

        I was lucky enough to find mine second-hand and really cheap – so I didn’t look into the actual brands. But if you manage to scout around for a second-hand one online, that’s a cheaper way of testing if it’s the right solution for you than getting a really expensive new one. Hope you find a good one – I really do recommend it 🙂

        • I might go have a cheeky look round a shop to find out what suits me, then go buy online where it’s cheaper. Us impoverished artistic types have to save money for coffee and comic books somehow!

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