Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Literal Pain in the Neck

You wouldn't really think that writing comes with occupational hazards, but guess what? It does! I mean, I know that I'm not hauling concrete or mine-diving or anything like that, but it turns out that sitting in front of a computer all day has severely screwed up my body. For years, I've had terrible neck and shoulder pain and have tried to cope with massages and, more recently, acupuncture. (Unfortunately, my husband is quite possibly the worst masseuse in the world. It gives me no pleasure to say that, but since I say this to his face, I'm okay with also announcing it publicly. Sadly, nightly rubdowns aren't an option in my house. Those of you with finger-talented spouses, consider yourself lucky!)

Anyway, I recently saw my doctor about my pain, and it looks like, yup, I can thank this job for the knots and jolts and inability to rotate my neck in nearly any way. (Think of a movie in which the character, sore from sun burn, has to turn his entire torso to talk to someone. That's me.) So, I'm headed to physical therapy to find a way to fix what both my doctor and my massage therapist call, "the curve" of my shoulders. I'll be curious to discover what the PTs can do to alleviate my problem. And will certainly let you all know!

I know I'm not the only one out there who is suffering for her art. :) So fill me in, what changes have you made in your workspace or your habits to ease any work-related pain?

14 comments:

Marijke Durning said...

I've gone from having a bad back from lifting patients in my nurse-life, to having a bad back from sitting all the time in my current writing-life.
I bought an orbus seat and back cushion for my chair and noticed an incredible difference.

I do have problems with both hands. I have splints that I remember to wear every once in a while, but otherwise I just grin and bear it for now.

Good luck!

Trish Ryan said...

Omigosh-I haven't been able to turn my head to the right for weeks now! I never thought it was the writing; I've been blaming my pillow.

Keep us posted on the PT--what they have you do & if it helps!

Jen A. Miller said...

I have shoulder and neck pain, and you know what really helped? That pilates class I took. It helps you get an excellent stretch and strengthen your body to hold yourself up right. I wish I could take the class every day!

Jen

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Trish- It could be from sleeping too. My massage therapist showed me how he wanted me to sleep, but I found it too uncomfortable - basically, just on my back, with a small towel rolled up supporting my neck - to ever do. I value my sleep too much!

Jen-I agree that pilates would really help. I'm looking into it!

Dara Chadwick said...

Interesting to hear about all these writerly pains! My aches are all in my lower back; my younger years as a gymnast, twisting myself into pretzel-like poses, have taken their toll for sure. A chiropractor told me a few years ago that the best way to alleviate my lower back pain was to start bending like a gymnast again. Um, I don't think so -- my almost 40-year-old body just says no to that.

My lower back really hurts when I spend long hours writing, so I try to take frequent breaks. These days, I also sit at my desk with pillows stuffed between my lower back and the chair for support. But I'd love to find a chair that would let me toss the pillows and give me the support that I need.

Anyone know of such a chair?

Larramie said...

If you can't do Pilates, then stretch and hold that stretch for 5 - 10 seconds. It initially hurts but, if you remember to repeat this a few times a day, relief should take over. Also, take a few deep breaths every once in a while to relax.

jen said...

My remedy has been an equipment change. I haven't done any writing on a laptop for a year now because I hate how it makes me hunch. I solely write on a desktop system at a wide, comfortable desk. Also, I upgraded from the pretty, match-y wooden chair I used to use to an ugly but supportive office chair.

But the best thing I've done is get a great monitor. I use a 21 inch flat screen that can be physically turned from the traditional landscape view to portrait, meaning when I work on documents, I can give it a quarter turn and look at two whole pages at a time. Saves the wrist from a lot of scrolling, too. (Thought it was a useless feature when we shopped for a new system, but I'd never give it up now.)

Jenny said...

Yoga.

I like Jen's tips too.

Eileen said...

Consider having an occupational therapist look at your workstation. Things like having your chair properly adjusted, the monitor at a good height etc can make a difference. Through out the day stopping to stretch is also important. Chocolate might help too- I don't know for sure- but better safe than sorry.

Melissa Marsh said...

According to my chiropractor, I had a whiplash accident back in high school (I'm thinking it was volleyball) that left my neck in a not so nice position. I've struggled with tension headaches and tension in my upper back and shoulder for years. And yeah, being a full-time copyeditor for the day job and then going home at night and working on "my" stuff isn't the best. I do have an ergonomic keyboard that helps tremendously, and putting a pad under my wrist with the mouse also helps. My massage therapist also told me that when I drive, I need to make sure both my arms are resting on something. This lessens the tension in the shoulders and neck, too.

And my husband is NOT a good masseuse, either! He just rubs too hard and I cringe, which only makes things worse!

Sara Hantz said...

I have a wooden plinth that lift my feet off the ground by about 3 inches and I have my screen lifted so my eyes focus on the centre of the screen. and i try to keep my arms at right angles to my body - or else I get terrible neck and shoulder pain

bookbabie said...

Ouch, poor Allison. PT is great and I hope you get into a yoga/stretching routine afterwards:) I had chronic neck and headaches and gobbled Advil's like they were M&M's until I started my twenty minutes of gentle yoga while watching TV in the evenings. As a matter of fact, that's what I'm going to go do right now!

Alisha said...

About 8 weeks after beginning my book/book proposal in earnest last winter, I developed a shoulder/collarbone problem that required PT. I was seriously afraid I'd torn the rotator cuff (or something equally scary and requiring of surgery.) Turns out improper ergonomics and a lifelong tendencey toward poor seated posture left me "all hunched over in the upper back and shoulders", which allowed the weakness in the muscles around my rotator cuff to become evident. As a result, my cuff was not holding my sholder tightly in place, and it would occasionally "pop " or catch slightly when I rotated my arm. The fix - strength training of the muscles in the shoulder, upper and mid-back and upper chest. (Yeah - exercise! Sucks, huh?) Once summer came around, swimming was a great option, and it all really did help, as did getting a proper desk for my laptop and an actual desk chair with a back support pad that forced proper posture while typing. Hope you can get some relief with similarly minor changes!

stickyboi said...

do you sleep on a cheap mattress? This could be another cause of the pain you are currently suffering.

Memory-foam and orthapedic mattresses, although not necessarily the cheapest, can help improve your posture and alleviate neck pain. specialist mattress prices may dissuade your purchase intentions, but think of the long-term benefits (after all, you spend around 8hours in every day in the double bed you share with your partner!!