Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oh, My Aching Back

Translators, writers, editors, academics, and teachers spend a lot of time sitting at our desks, often hunched over a computer. This leads to bad posture, tight muscles, and aching limbs. How do you cope with all this?

I know you’re supposed to get up every hour and have a stretch and a quick walk, but I frequently am so into my work that I forget. I end up sitting by my computer for hours on end, so focused that I don’t realize how much my body is hurting. One thing I try to do to combat this is to keep a glass of water next to me. I drink water constantly, so I am forced to get up pretty often, both to go to the bathroom and also to refill my glass.

I also try to sit on one of those large fitness balls when I am doing some reading that doesn’t require me to sit at the computer. Fitness balls make you sit properly, even if it’s hard to sit on them for too many minutes at a time.

But despite my best efforts and despite the various tools at my disposal (a foot rest, a raised screen, etc), I still end up with a huge amount of pain. I go to the gym and for swims regularly, because keeping active makes a big difference. Also, I finally found a good massage therapist and I try to indulge when I can, though it isn’t cheap. It’s better to spend some money and not have so much pain, even if part of me struggles with the idea of enjoying such luxuries.

What do you do to prevent or handle work-related aches and pains?


Anonymous said...

I joined a massage club (Massage Envy) and get a 90-minute massage every month. I also take my dog out frequently. And coffee and water breaks.

Emily said...

The water/bathroom approach is an effective one :) I also find yoga to be really helpful - I only make it to class once every week or two, but I've learned enough from the class that I can get up from my desk every few hours (every few minutes if I'm feeling antsy) for some quick stretches.

Berna Bleeker said...

I went to an Alexander technique trainer to improve my posture. That helped a lot!

Douglas Carnall, @juliuzbeezer said...

There is no escape from the need for exercise. Your body is made to trek the savannah not sit at a desk.

The absolute minimum requirement for exercise is 30 minutes of walking a day.

I'd second the proposal to take up yoga. Also do some aerobic (jog/cycle) exercise two or three times a week.

The point of all these activities is to improve your core strength and stamina so that you are more able to sustain the more active postures you are already attempting while you work.

Check out your desk ergonomics: here's one idea from the excellent Corinne MacKay.

B.J. Epstein said...

Thanks for all the ideas! I do go to yoga and I try to exercise a few days a week, but maybe I need to up the amount of exercise. If only evolution would catch up to our lifestyles!

Best wishes,

Narrative Threads said...

I gave up and bought an Aeron chair. Exercise is still important for many reasons, but my back doesn't hurt anymore.