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Writing – A Pain In The Neck.

August 31st, 2015

Pain-in-the-neck-blogOf all the things you do, what do you think might be ‘dangerous?’ Driving? Cooking? How about D.I.Y? – risky stuff. But what put me out of action a few months ago was, possibly, the most dangerous of them all … writing.

Writing? Yes, you heard. And don’t look so sceptical, this could happen to you, so listen. It all began with these blogs. This being the first ‘regular’ job I’ve had for a while, before the Writers Bureau I was used to a fairly hap-hazard working routine. Weekly deadlines came as quite a shock, and after a month or so, I got this weird ‘tingling’ in my right hand. A bit later, my thumb went numb. Then things started hurting.

At first it was like the kind of toothache you don’t know about till you’re drifting off to sleep. Lying in bed, I’d get pins and needles in my hand, then my arm would start throbbing and, in the end, I’d spend hours rolling from side to side trying to get comfortable. After a few days this developed into constant shooting pains all down my right shoulder and arm. It was thoroughly unpleasant, and made me very, very grumpy (ask my wife – she had to put up with me through the whole thing, and I kept her awake through a couple of nights too.)

Eventually I went to see the Doctor. He said I was suffering from a work related injury and that the thing making me ill was my laptop, which wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I know I used to do it, but these days I can’t imagine writing without a laptop. Working with mine so regularly though, week on week, had given me ‘H.O.L.S.’- Hunched Over Laptop Syndrome. Apparently this is a very common condition which develops for the simple reason that laptop’s screens and keyboards are attached to each other. With conventional computers, we’ve known for years that the top of the screen should be just below the height of your eyes. This keeps your ears, shoulders and hips in line which is good for your back. But with a laptop this isn’t possible – you have to drop your head forward to look down at a laptop’s screen. This puts a strain on the muscles in your neck and shoulders, and that’s where the trouble starts.

It turned out I’d trapped a nerve in my neck – the one that runs all the way down your arm into your hand. The Doc’ prescribed some extra strong med’s to help get some sleep, then sent me to a physiotherapist who gave me a series of exercises to sort things out. She also advised me to get a ‘riser’ and separate mouse and keyboard for my laptop, which I did (see the picture up there on the right.) Gradually, over the next couple of weeks, the pain went away, and I’m back to full fitness now, though I do have to keep up with those exercises … every day.

So, if your writing is giving you a pain in the neck, or anywhere else, don’t let it get in your way. Get some help, and a few bits of kit, and get yourself back to work. And if you want some general advice on avoiding back and neck problems this ‘Laptop Health’ article from the UK’s National Health Service includes a video with exercises to help keep the aches and pains away.

Keep on writing!

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