backmassageHere’s something I’ve learned sitting at a computer for the last twenty years: sitting at a computer for the last twenty years catches up with you.

Of course, when you’re young, you don’t realise that’s going to happen. When you’re young, you’re invulnerable. I used to lounge back in a recliner, my feet up on the desk, the keyboard on my lap, angled so I could also watch the TV, which was adjacent to my computer.

The next day? Not a problem at all.

If I did it now, muscles would weld into place and I’d pay for it for days afterward.

You hear a lot about posture. And, for the most part, we ignore it. We slump at the computer. Or hunch over. Or sit cross-legged. We think nothing of it because we’re comfortable. Since our bodies aren’t complaining, surely there’s nothing wrong with these positions, is there?

But the truth is that while we’re sitting obliviously, things are happening inside our bodies. Muscles are twisting. The spine is thrown out of whack and glacially, discs are sliding. We’re not feeling these things as they’re occurring, but they are and, inevitably, there’s a tipping point. Over twenty years that one disc which has been stressed due to your head being hunched forward slides, slides, slides and starts impacting on your spinal cord. You get pins and needles in your fingers, or pain in your arm. The neck tenses to hold the disc in place. The tension draws on the muscles enveloping your skull, pulls them taut, resulting in headaches.

Measures to address these problems are stopgap. Sure, a massage is nice, and it loosens the muscles but how long do the muscles remain relaxed? Once you’re back at the computer, they tighten again. Some muscles learn to adopt that new curled position as their natural state, which then requires extensive physiotherapy to teach them to unlearn that position. If you have a disc problem, either it becomes a question of management, or – ultimately – surgery. Surgery to fix a disc problem in the neck entails going through the throat (well, actually, they shunt the throat aside, but go in through the front), pulling the disc out, and fusing the discs above and below it for stability. Sounds like fun, huh?

These issues worsen when we’re tense, and as writers – and also as editors – we tense often. People not in the industry don’t understand what it’s like to sit at a computer and, as a writer, be stuck. Be stuck? Preposterous! How could that be an issue? Because it’s frustrating. You take all that energy, all that creativity, all that emotion, and bottle it into a person until it hunches them over the computer, trying to find a release. It’s unhealthy. It’s worse as an editor when you’re working on something that’s twisting you out of shape, scrunching you up until you’re a pretzel.

A physio once told me that the human body isn’t designed for sitting, citing primitive tribes who squat when they eat, rather than sit. We’re built to roam, to hunt, to take care of ourselves. The body is built for motion, but modern living encourages us to be stationery, to be hunched over – hunchings that are growing worse as we all hunch over our smartphones and tablets.


Here are some basic tips:

    • apparently, sitting bolt upright is also bad for the spine, as it puts pressure on the discs. So sit as if you’re leaning back just a bit.
    • get your flatscreen level with your eyes.
    • if possible, find a keyboard rest that props up your keyboard on a 45 degree angle. Looking down at your keyboard is murder on your neck.
    • don’t sit with one leg crossed over the other. This pulls muscles (in your back) into unnatural positions. Remember, muscles are connected – stressing one affects the others.
    • get up every forty-five minutes and take a little walk around the room. Stretch.
    • if whatever you’re working on is tensing you up, relax. If you insist on being tense, at least get up and be tense.

We often live like there’s no tomorrow, ignorant to the damage we’re inflicting upon ourselves. But not one of us are impervious and if we’re not careful, we will face that day when our bodies can bear the burden no longer and complain, ‘Enough! Enough!’ Unfortunately, the body’s mode of communication is usually pain.

Take care of yourself.

Nobody else will.


P.S. A thanks to one of assistant editors, Helen Krionas, for the suggested topic.

P.P.S. Don’t forget to vote for us in the Leader Local Grants for our Books With Wings project. You can read more about it and vote here! Please vote as it’s a worthwhile cause.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *