This column is being brought to you by ibuprofen, voltaren and deep heat. I am in pain. Lots of it. Years of using a laptop computer have finally taken their toll: I have a working injury. It’s not like I fell off a ladder and broke my leg whilst painting the house, or got my fingers trapped in wrapping machine whilst working on the factory line. No, I know, I have no cause to complain, apart from the constant nagging agony of neck, arm and shoulder pain… poor me. I couldn’t type at all a couple of days ago; I was close to resorting to taping a stick to my forehead and head banging my way through 500 words.
So, this week’s column is a public health announcement: ‘How to sit at a computer’. Did you know that regular computer users perform between 50,000 to 200,000 keystrokes every day? That’s a lot of fingertip mileage. If your computer use includes frequent awkward postures, repetition, then you can develop nerve, muscle, tendon, and ligament damage. So if you use a computer a lot then you should be looking at your posture. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your knees should be at right angles, whilst your elbows and forearms should be supported and the actual screen should be in your eye line when your head is being held ‘neutrally’. So, not on the sofa with the pc on your lap and head bent down, or many other variations on a theme.
I knew all this stuff, but I just ignored it and carried on. My trusty laptop has been my constant companion for the last two years. I think I actually spend more time with it than I do my family. And it being a laptop means that you can work pretty much anywhere with it, which of course, I did. So bit by bit, not that you would notice, my neck and shoulder have been seizing up over the past year, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t turn my head around.
The pain in my shoulder got to the point where it was waking me up at night, and I was boring people by such a whinge bag about it, and that’s when I decided I’d better go to seek some help. Cue Tracey Evans, physiotherapist who has her clinic in Marivent. She’s been a physio for 26 years, so she knows what she is doing and what a difference! One session of interferential, ultra sound and the deepest deep tissue massage ever and I literally could feel more blood travelling around my head. Bliss. ‘How are you feeling?’ asked the lovely Tracey, ‘Fabulous’ I replied, and I truly felt amazing. It’s incredible how tiring it is to be in pain, and being relieved of that feeling was wonderful.
So I am determined to make sure I don’t allow myself to get into this sorry state again. I’ve been googling about what to do. The workstation has now been done – correct height of table, arm supports etc. There are trickier things though which will be more difficult for me to remember, i.e. to take frequent rest breaks, it’s easy to forget to do that: stand up and stretch, simple. But here’s one which I could have done with knowing about when I was at school, ‘Rest your eyes occasionally by focusing on distant objects (i.e., look out a window).’ ‘What are you doing Victoria?’ ‘Just having an RSI stress break miss…’