Sitting in a chair in front of a computer for extended amounts of time isn’t the best thing for your health. As bloggers we do it on a regular basis. This puts us at risk of getting neck, shoulder and upper back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and lower back and sciatic nerve pain. Don’t be scared. I’m not saying that choosing to be a blogger condemns you to a lifetime of pain. If you know how to take care of yourself, you can prevent these problems from occurring.
I’m a licensed massage therapist. When I decided to start blogging professionally, I was well aware of the physical risks, but I ignored them and worked on my blogs for hours on end. I ignored the tingling in my palms and numbness in my fingertips and continued to work. I knew these were signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, but I didn’t care because I had a job to do. Then one morning I woke up, and I couldn’t turn my head to the right. The right side of my neck and my right shoulder throbbed with pain. That’s when I decided that I needed to change the way I work.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the nerve that runs through the wrist into the hand. This nerve is called the median nerve. The median nerve passes through a thin space in your wrist, along with the tendons that connect to your fingers. When these tendons become overworked, they get inflamed and put pressure on the median nerve. This causes the burning, tingling and numbness associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause atrophy of the muscles in the hand and loss of the ability to grip. Trust me, you don’t want that to happen.
The neck, shoulder and back pain associated with working at the computer come from bad posture and staying in one position too long. Sciatica can develop from sitting down too long. All of these problems can be solved by making a few simple changes.
Posture is Key
Don’t slouch. If you slouch with your shoulders rounded forward, you’ll get upper back and neck pain. When you’re at your computer you should sit with your back relaxed yet straight. That may sound like a contradiction to some, but it’s possible.
When most people try to sit up straight, they pull back their shoulders and thrust out their chests and end up putting more strain on their backs. When you sit up straight try to imagine you’re being pulled up from the crown of your head. Your shoulders should be relaxed. Your arms should hang loosely at your sides. Your head and neck should be straight. Place both feet flat on the floor in front of you about hip width or wider apart.
Adjust your monitor height. If you have to look up or down to see you monitor, you need to change its height. Most people’s monitors are too low. Try putting some books under it to change the height.
Buy an ergonomic keyboard. When you type your wrists should be straight. If they’re bent at all you’re putting yourself at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. A good ergonomic keyboard is an excellent investment. I have a laptop, but when I’m working at home I use an ergonomic keyboard with it.
Get back support. If you have low back problems, get a chair with good back support or roll up a hand towel and place it in the small of your back.
Take your hand off the mouse. Holding your hand on the mouse causes tension in your neck and shoulders. When you’re not using the mouse let go of it. Learn shortcuts on your computer. This doesn’t only save time, it reduces the amount of time you use the mouse and that saves you the pain of not being able to turn your head. I learned this lesson the hard way.
Take frequent breaks. Get up every hour and move around the room. I’ve set up my work station so that I can work while standing up. If I’m working on something that I don’t want to take a break from, I’ll stand up for awhile. If you can maintain good posture and stand to work, it’s a good way to give your sciatic nerve a rest.
Self massage can also help prevent these problems. Here’s a simple massage that you can do several times daily.
Hold the hand that you’re going to massage in front of you with the palm up. With the fingers of your opposite hand encircle the base of the palm just above the wrist joint and squeeze gently. Hold that for a few seconds. This is to open up the area that the median nerve runs through.
Then massage your palm by placing the thumb of the opposite hand on your palm and the fingers on the back of your hand. Using a squeeze and release motion to massage your entire palm.
Use a similar method to massage up your forearm. You want to massage the muscle between the two bones of the forearm. You can squeeze your forearm between your thumb and fingers and move your thumb and fingers back and forth across the muscles vigorously. Do this all the way up the forearm to the elbow. Go over any areas that feel sore more than once to help loosen them.
Don’t massage the area in the crease of the elbow. There are a lot of nerves and blood vessels close to the surface there and massaging the area could damage them.
Rest your arm on your lap or a table so that your upper arm and shoulder are completely relaxed. Now massage your upper arm. Use your whole hand to squeeze and release the muscles.
Massage your shoulder by grabbing the large meaty muscle at the top of your shoulder and squeezing it while twisting it slightly. This may hurt, but it should be a hurts so good pain not agony. If your shoulder isn’t too tense, the muscle will slowly slide out of your grip on its own. If it doesn’t, just release it after a few seconds. Do this a couple times.
Massage the back of your neck by running your fingers back and forth across the muscles beside your spine. Don’t massage on the spine. Do this from the base of your skull to the bottom of your neck.
You can also massage the large muscle in the front of your neck. It runs from behind your ear to your collarbone. You can squeeze that muscle between your thumb and forefingers. It should slide slowly from your grasp like your shoulder did. If it doesn’t, just squeeze and release down the length of the muscle.
Do all of that again on the other side and your done. It should only take 5 minutes to do both sides.
Doing these things along with eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water will help you be a healthy, happy blogger.