This is the second post about writing related injury prevention by Randy Barber.
Last week we looked at one way you can guard against the harmful effects of excessive computer use. This was the spectacularly simple step of taking frequent breaks. That’s all, just getting up and doing something else for a little while every hour or so, more often if possible.
This is always going to be my number one tip for anyone who is feeling pain, stiffness, fatigue or stress from the amount of keyboard work they do. But in this article I’m going to outline something more active you can do to help reduce these harmful effects of computer use.
Next to taking frequent short breaks the best thing most writers can do to protect themselves from the physical demands of their work is stretch. It really is “the perfect antidote for long periods of inactivity and holding still” which is just what happens when you sit at your computer for hours on end.
The best thing about stretching is that you can do it anywhere. You don’t need to go to the gym, you don’t need to change your clothes. Stretching can be done at work, at your desk or on the phone, even while you are in a meeting! Done properly, it is a gentle, pleasurable activity.
And the best news of all is that the perfect stretching resource is available on your computer! Just get online and go to www.stretchware.com. There, you will find downloadable stretching software that tells you everything you need to know about how to stretch to relieve the physical demands of excessive keyboard work. (Pat notes: there is a free 30 day trial so you can try it out first before committing.)
This package can be set up to your own specifications. A nice feature is the reminder function which can be programmed to tell you it’s time to take a break from your computer work at whatever intervals you decide. The package then takes you through stretching routines which you can self-select depending on how much time you’ve got and what parts of your body you need to stretch. As the author, Bob Anderson, says, “The machine that causes the problem now contains the solution!”
I cannot commend this stretching resource too highly. (And no, I don’t get a commission). If you don’t want the software, you can get the same material in book form from the same website. I recommend “Stretching in the Office”.
Now just a word of caution about stretching: it can be very beneficial, especially in preventing muscles from tightening up, which they are prone to do when we sit for long periods at our computers. But stretching is not a good way to treat soft tissue once more than mild pain develops. If you have moderate or severe pain and stretching seems to make it worse, then stop. You have an injury and either rest or treatment is required, not stretching.
Pat notes: download a comprehensive set of desk exercises here.