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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Body By Computer by Joan Reeves

I thought I'd share some lessons I've learned from my chiropractor, physical therapist, and massage therapist. Yep. I have all three in my ongoing struggle to rehab my upper back.

Backstory

Show me a woman with back problems, aches and pains in shoulders, neck, and arms, and I'll show you a writer using a computer more than 8 hours a day.

I remember reading a university research study done in the UK about the bodies of computer gamers. The researchers conducted a series of physical and psychological tests to determine whether computer game playing could be defined as a sport.

Seriously, a Sport?

I'm talking serious gamers here. The kind who actually earn thousands in prize money and sponsorships each year.

They found that professional computer gamers have the instant reactions of fighter pilots. Unfortunately, they also discovered that these gamers have physical bodies akin to 60-year-old chain-smoking couch potatoes.

Say What?!

Well, I guess that's a great big NO for it being a sport and intensive computer users being athletes.

Of course, this started me wondering how we writers would stack up in a similar study. I mean, I spend most of my day in front of a computer, pecking furiously on a keyboard. And I have the mouse shoulder to prove it. (Mouse Shoulder is the term describing the upper body strain resulting in chronic pain in the specific collection of neck and shoulder muscles, tendons, and nerves noticed in people who use computers for long periods of time.)

Heck! It's not fair to have the injuries when I can't even brag that I've got the reactions of a fighter pilot. Maybe the reactions of a turtle with repetitive stress injury...

Long Story Short

To make a long story short--yeah, I know, too late--do as I say and not as I do. If you read for extended periods of time on a laptop of desktop computer--even on a cell phone--or you write for long hours at the keyboard, stop it. Set an alarm and get up every hour to stretch and walk around.

YouTube has some great videos that teach how to stretch. Just enter a search string: how to stretch upper body or whatever part of the body you need to stretch.

I'm doing a stretch routine three times a day so I can actually write more with greater comfort. Give it a try. Your body will thank you.

Giveaway

Do you do any kind of daily stretching routine or workout routine to keep your body in top condition? Leave a comment with your email and tell us about it and be entered to win a free audio book.

(Joan Reeves is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives her happily ever after with her husband in the Lone Star State. Visit her at her Amazon Author Page and sign up for her Wordplay, her email mailing list.)

10 comments:

  1. Great advice, Joan! It works for other professions besides writing. I am a jewelry designer and creator. I get so involved in the process that I find myself needing a break. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. Yes, all of us who spend our days (and nights) crouched over our work need to just stop it. *g* Btw, what kind of jewelry? Got a website?

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  2. Joan, what a great post! Yes, I have all the aches and pains associated with those who spend long periods at the computer. I do try to move around several times a day. One good exercise is to stand in a doorway and grasp the doorjamb at hip height. Lean forward and return to straight. Move hand up six inches and repeat. Keep going until (if you're tall enough) your hands are straight above your head. This exercise unkinks muscles. One for mouse-hand is to stand parallel to the wall and about a foot away. With your hand at breast height and elbow up at hand height splay fingers. Now lean away from the wall as you slowly rotate your elbow down and rotate it straight. Feel the pull on your hand and wrist muscles if you're doing this correctly. My yoga instructor showed me those back when I actually went to yoga.

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    1. Thanks, Caroline. Those sound similar to what I'm doing. Yoga? I remember yoga. It's something I once did every day. Been trying to get back to that habit for a long time now.

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  3. Mouse shoulder? That's a new one on me! Thanks for a great post full of good info. Setting an alarm as a reminder to stop and stretch is a really good idea. On those lovely days when the words are flowing, it's too easy to get caught up in the words and forget to move anything but our fingers. Thank you for pointing out the problems that can result.

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    1. Yes, mouse shoulder is a real thing--just another of the many repetitive stress injuries of modern life.

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  4. Gentle yoga is my friend. Like Caroline, I do yoga every day and it really helps. Also, while I'm sitting at the computer, every once in a while I concentrate on lowering my shoulder blades. This pulls my shoulders back, straightens my spine and neck, and in general, helps with good posture. And of course I do wrist stretches frequently.

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    1. Since you and Caroline have both mentioned yoga, I'll make a real effort this week to get up early and do my routine. Thanks for the reminder.

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  5. I don't sit for more than two hours at a stretch when writing. I get up change the laundry around, let the dog in or out, go for a walk or ride a horse and come back in and write some more. I don't know how people can write for hours straight. I have to give my body and my brain a change. But when I do feel like my shoulders are tightening up, I lay flat on the floor and stretch everything. Good post on taking care of ourselves.

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  6. Thanks, Paty. I just get so lost in writing that I lose track of time. I now set an alarm. That helps a lot--especially if I set the alarm on the stove and I'm upstairs in my office when it goes off. *g*

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