Friday, 10 April 2015

A Pain in the neck - Eve Ainsworth

I’m writing this particular post in a grumpy state of mind. I’m not happy at all. The reason? Typing is causing me a great deal of pain at the moment.

This is a writer’s nightmare and unfortunately it is happening to me. Shooting pains in my arm, elbow and a throbbing aching neck. I was at the doctors for another matter and mentioned my painful arm. After some prodding and pulling, she concluded that this was some kind of wear and tear from writing. Bad posture, wrong seating position – all the things that could make the wires inside my body scream out in protest.

In between swallowing pills and applying heat to my sore parts, I‘ve been reading up on RSI and neck conditions. It’s alarming just how many suffer. Even more concerning is the fact that so many writers are affected, the scribblers at home, who have no-one at work to ensure we are sitting correctly or have an adequate workstation.

I’m researching a lot now and trying to be kind to myself as I don’t want years of discomfort. I know that this is not as advanced as some people’s RSI – which causes numbness in fingers, loss of grip and long-term pain. My problems probably aren’t even proper RSI – more likely it’s the fact that I sit at my desk at stupid angles. That I cross my legs. That I can’t touch type, so my neck is always bent forward, looking at the keys.

But this whole situation has made me realise how carefully we must treat our bodies. How we must be kind to ourselves and respect our own limitations.

I don’t ever want writing to be a pain again.


Heather Dyer said...

Sorry to hear this, Eve - it's a reminder for us all. I hear that some people try getting used to using the mouse in the left hand. Or you could try writing on bed, on a board on your lap - or another way that forces you to change position completely? Good luck and I hope you're feeling better soon.

Eve Ainsworth said...

Thanks Heather -I might try the bed one!

Susan Price said...

I share your pain, Eve - the best I could discover, from my own research, is that it's much the same as whiplash from a car-injury, but done in slow-motion, over years. The bent forward weight of the head stretches the neck-tendons. (See Stoddart on back injuries.) I'm afraid it's permanent.

The only help for it that I can discover is to leave your writing as soon as you feel the discomfort coming on, and go and do something else, which involves moving in different ways. This often prevents the pain from settling in and becoming that week-long grinding ache that you're suffering.

But of course, as soon as we really get into writing something, we don't want to get up and go and do anything else! - We want to go on for five hours, ten hours, all night...

Eve Ainsworth said...

Yes Susan, that's just it! When I get going with writing I end up in the same position for hours on end. Wrong, I know, but I can't help myself!
I need to break some habits!

Richard said...

Things I've learned from my chiropractor and being the H&S bod in the office over the years.

The top of your monitor should be on the level of your eyes. Laptop keyboards and screens are horrible -- invest in a pair of real ones. Put the keyboard as flat as it will go and use a wrist-rest.
Maintain an oblique angle between back and legs. Stand up when you feel discomfort and move around every hour or two. Feet flat on the floor side by side and sit up straight. If you're like me that puts the chair on its maximum height and requires packing under the monitor. You can get a wedge-shaped cushion that works wonders, but it takes a bit of getting used to. I find those chairs you kneel on useless but my problem is lower back; YMMV.

Cold works better than heat -- it reduces inflammation rather than just reducing pain.

Next week: how to suck eggs.

Eve Ainsworth said...

That's fab, thanks Richard

Jess Vallance said...

A while ago I read this article:

Before then I always thought sitting up straight was the way to do things, but now I lean my chair right back like I'm driving a racing car.

I don't know about the science of it all but I don't get back ache any more. And I sit on my arse for HOURS without getting up for a wander.

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Hi Eve. I share your pain! A monthly heavy duty deep tissue massage and cupping really helps relieve my pain.

Ann Turnbull said...

So sorry to hear about this, Eve. But be reassured: it will go away. I was in excruciating neck and shoulder pain for several months last year, but now at the first twinge I do exercises and ease up on the computer use, and I'm fine. Here's my advice:
Don't sit for more than 20 minutes at a time and stop using the computer at the first hint of pain;
Handwrite or use a laptop standing at a filing cabinet (you may need to stand on something so that your elbows are about level with the writing surface;
Don't make long phone calls;
Cut back on emails and send handwritten letters instead (people love receiving them!);
Buy a copy of "Exercise Beats Arthritis" by Valerie Sayce. Your problem may not be arthritis but the neck and shoulder exercises will still work. You can buy a copy for 1p on Amazon (I've got the old 1992 edition.) Doing the exercises for a few minutes twice a day was the thing that helped me most of all. Plus painkillers - because neck pain makes it very difficult to sleep.
Good luck!

Anne Booth said...

So sorry to read this but thank you for sharing as even as I type this I can see from the comments above that my posture isn't good either, so I must do something. I also want to show this to my family too. I hope you find a better position to write, and I think I may be sitting up in bed a bit more and handwriting in my notebooks.

Nathaniel Quinn said...

That is so true! Our bodies can only handle so much abuse. There's no harm in being careful with the way we utilize it, so there's absolutely no need to be crude. In any case, I hope you're faring better these days, Eve. If you're still feeling any aching or throbbing around your neck, perhaps it's time to seek out for professional opinion. Take care! :)

Nathaniel Quinn@ Superior Healthcare