As a project manager by day and a writer by night, I spend a lot of time on the computer (mixture of desktop and laptop sessions) which results in head and neck aches. What I’ve noticed over the Christmas period is that these symptoms seem to have gone away, which is interesting to me as I have been spending less time on the computer.
“If you want to be a faster writer and a happier writer you must learn about ergonomics” says John Soares on his website Productive Writers (article: Writing Ergonomics: Top Tips for Proper Posture, Alignment, and Movement).
So, what is ergonomics?
John Soares says that “ergonomics is the science of work”. Wikipedia explains that it’s “the science of designing user interaction with equipment and workplaces to fit the user”. Both sites show the same excellent diagram showing how to sit correctly at a computer. According to Wikipedia “ergonomics is employed to fulfill the two goals of health and productivity”. How you position your body and the way you move when you write are all important things to be addressed. You need to be able to do all of this in a way that ensures a minimum amount of strain on your body along with being able to maintain maximum productivity.
Writing at work and at home
A friend of mine had a long period of time off work following back and neck problems. She was only allowed to return to work once her workstation was set up correctly, and now it’s set up specifically for her, she quite understandably doesn’t allow anyone to reposition her chair or touch anything on her desk. You may have heard of ergonomic keyboards and padded wrist rests for use with the keyboard and mouse, which some people use if they either have repetitive strain injury (RSI) or to prevent it.
At home things are usually very different. Even if you have a fixed workstation, you may choose to write or type in bed, or sitting in an armchair. I’m usually slouched on the settee with my laptop propped on my lap or perched at the dining room table on a chair with no back support. Sometimes I even prop myself up in bed for a bit of cosy weekend writing (which is where I am editing this right now!).
I really need to learn to sit properly and maybe invest in a new chair now I’ve read this (and a proper desk for that matter).
Other things I hadn’t realised (or I am not doing):
- Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle.
- You should move from the elbow not the wrist when using the mouse.
- You should do finger exercises at intervals as well as palm massages and wrist stretches.
- Even when doing research away from the computer, you must maintain posture, e.g. when updating notes, writing or reading.
- Wherever possible, you should attach a keyboard and mouse when using a laptop (something I never do, and should!).
Other helpful tips
It goes without saying that you should also have regular breaks. A good tip is to set an alarm or use an online timer, such as www.ticktocktimer.com, to prompt you to get up and move around every 30 minutes or so. I’ve used it before and it’s surprising how quickly the time goes (and it’s so tempting to go over that time).
Please feel free to leave me a comment if you have any other tips.
That’s it for today
- Posture (stanleymetellus.wordpress.com)
- 5 Most Common Posture Related Problems (growingtallerguide.com)
- Test and Fix Your Posture with This Head-to-Toe Guide [Health] (lifehacker.com)
- Note 168 – Writing the old fashioned way – with pen and paper (mywritingnotebook.wordpress.com)
That is something I always wondered; could the writing be doing more damage to our overall posture than good. I’ve become more aware of how I’m sitting at my desk at work or when I’m writing. I’m very fortunate to be doing martial arts on a regular basis because it keeps the blood flowing and my body, mind and spirit stretched. Hope you had a great new year’s day and I look forward to reading more:))
Thanks for the very quick response. Yes, I agree we just need to be conscious of what we are doing to our bodies. I do yoga and Pilates so I think that all helps too. Thanks again Sandra 🙂
You are quite right! I’m pretty sure the recurring shoulder pain I’m having is from how I sit and use the mouse when typing on my laptop. Great idea, about setting a timer and making myself get up and move around. That would help the “secretarial spread” too!
Yes, I know what you mean – my aches and pains are usually on the right hand side of my neck and shoulder which are probably the way I use the mouse. Thanks for the comment. Sandra 🙂
Oh dear, this has really struck a nerve *pardon the pun* 😉
I do all my writing sitting at a dining room table in an ordinary dining chair …..hmmmmm, and I’ve been wondering why I have back aches lol.
Thanks hon, will look into getting myself a decent chair!
I’ve been sitting at the dining room table lately too, and the only variation is that sometimes I might go and get a cushion to sit on! Thanks for the comment 🙂