Writing is pain, Gentle Reader, and in more ways than one.
I had a dear friend (who saw me through some tough medical times back in 2008) ask me about coping with the repetitive stress and physical pain of writing. With NaNoWriMo in full swing, it occurred to me that many out there are suddenly typing a great deal more than they were a few weeks ago. I thought I might share some of my strategies.
I have to preface this by saying I am not a doctor and I am not qualified to give medical advice. I can only relate my own findings after having experimented on myself (not a scientifically valid sample size). Everyone’s body is different. I am not going to share my 2008 story (which involves multiple doctor visits, nerve studies, x-rays and scans, diet changes, alternative medicine, and pretty much every other possible action you can imagine).
Nor do I claim I have all the answers. My hip is in a constant state of seemingly imaginary agony (if you ask any doctor) and if I don’t watch it my arms will start to “go” again. But here, for your edification, are some of the things I do to keep myself writing everyday all day.
1. Standing desk
I invested in CB2’s mini-bar, which happens to be the right height for me. My laptop lives on a raised up platform at eye height. I require myself to stand to do all “fun” internet work, plus email business, blogging, and any social media standing. Which means at least 60% of my day. I have a full size external keyboard, mouse, and a Wellness Mat (which is a foot cushion of loveliness) and worth every darn penny. I find when I stand to type, I move around a great deal more which keeps the stiffness at bay and, hopefully, my rear from spreading.
2. Avoid trackpad/touchpad
I NEVER use the trackpad on my laptop. I have a Logitech M305 Wireless tiny portable mouse that travels with me everywhere when I am writing on the go. It’s better than the trackpad. Anything is better than the trackpad.
I sleep most every night in wrist braces. I use a Royce brand, which are no longer made. I dread having to hunt for new ones. Braces are a matter of taste and I had to experiment with various different types before I found the ones that I found comfortable. None are going to be fun to sleep in, but it’s worth it to me not to be in pain or numb the next day. This is the single most effective tool I found to handle the repercussions of full time writing. I hate the all-plastic ones like Exolite. These seem to be the closest I’ve found to my Royce, Ossur Exoform 8″, but they’re too long. I prefer something about 4″ in length, all it has to do is keep me from curling as I sleep or type. If my wrists are bad, like now, at the end of a project, I wear them to type as well. When I was first dealing with RSS I wore braces 24/7, even to excavate, and it was as annoying as you can imagine.
When I’m good, I break every 30 minutes, but it’s usually more like every hour to do a small set of stretches like these 12 desk stretches. I also recommend the following specific stretch highly: I put my hand against the wall as pictured, then with my other hand gently pull back on each finger one at a time.
I use a scheduler Alarm Clock to make certain I break at least 4 times a day (but often that’s more to remind me to eat). I try to stretch my whole body in the mornings for a half hour (I like Classical Stretch because of its dance component) and try to get a 20 minutes or more bike ride or something cardio in, as well as the occasional evening yoga session.
5. No Couch Writing
I have a little set up with a vintage leather Desk Pad for my lap and my portable mouse for when I’m ill, but that really is only for emergencies. I find, for me, I slouch too much and I hurt if I write on the couch for any length of time. Even my sitting activities, like reading, researching, and copy edits have to be done at a table or desk as ergonomic as possible