If, like me, you spend a fair portion of your life sitting down, reading, writing, and typing, the chances are you might experience neck and backache at some point, as well as pains in your hands and wrists. Things got bad for me about two years ago when I first started blogging and I became half-woman, half-laptop, such was my passion for connecting with the wider world through the internet.
When I experienced uncomfortable pain in my upper spine and neck, the first thing I did was to come offline for three days, and that helped enormously. Then, with a quick flurry of activity involving a saw, wood, screws, and an electric drill, a solution was supplied by my husband, Andrew. He made this simple writing ledge from materials already available in his shed (that magical emporium at the foot of our garden). You can see that it’s basically two pieces of wood, joined together at an angle that both raises the keyboard, so my hands are not typing on a flat surface, and raises the screen of my laptop, so that my neck doesn’t have to bend too far.
So far, it’s worked a treat. I even took it with me when I stayed in Swindon recently for the poetry festival. It doesn’t collapse, and it is quite heavy (although not excessively) because it’s solid enough not to slip around on the table/desk while I’m typing. But it fitted easily into a jute shopping bag and I was glad to have it with me.
I think there are solutions like this available to buy online and in computer accessory shops, if you’re not in a position to be able to create one yourself. But you can see that you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to make something that works very well. (at least, it works for me).
Another thing I do to try to avoid getting backache is change my body position while I’m working on computers. I have a separate laptop for my job with The Reader Organisation. Initially I set this up on the opposite side of the table where I (mostly) do my writing. But this meant that I was spending even MORE time sitting down, so, instead, I’ve set up a standing desk, by putting my work laptop on top of a bookcase.
I know there are far more sophisticated (and expensive) ‘standing desks’ on the market but my solution might be worth trying before you dip into your life savings.
You will note from these photographs that there is a television (and it’s on!) in the room with my laptops. This is because I share my house with two teenagers, and a husband, and there are times when my ‘writing room’ doubles as a teen hangout or a snug place to enjoy a beer and Match of the Day. That’s another reason to adapt a piece of furniture you already have (a bookcase, in this instance) to suit your needs rather than buying something specifically for the purpose. Where would I put a standing work station? Perhaps I’ll have a room of my own one day but, until then, making do with what I have seems to be doing the trick.
Something else that seems to work for me (in avoiding/reducing backache) is moving around my house and writing in different places.
Early drafts of my work, especially poetry, are always written by hand in notebooks, so there’s no need for me to be sitting in one area.
Here I am writing in different locations around my house. What tips do you have for keeping the aches and pains to a minimum? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.
Some good advice in the comment section below, as well.
16 thoughts on “Writing and backache. What are your tips?”
engage the lower abdomen as the key to sitting up straight rather than the lumbar region or shoulders of the back – I remembered to do it while reading your article …
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That’s a good tip, MLR! Thank you. It’s easy to forget the importance of how we sit. Glad you remembered! 🙂
Yoga is my answer! I go to a class once a week and do a bit everyday. This makes me more aware of my body and what is getting locked up. You can practise things a bit while sitting ( or standing). Then you can just do something for a minute now and then. I usually forget though! So it might sound good but……
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Yoga for writers. Is there a book/video? Gap in the market? Sounds imminently sensible and effective. Thanks for the tip, Rebecca! 🙂
Hi Josephine, I was told that the screen needs to be at eye level so you are not looking down as this strains the back. Also, I have a separate keyboard and am able to put my arms on the desk. Then I have a straight back office chair that rotates so it is easier to get out of without twisting your back. But I am old and creaky and this doesn’t always work. Peter 🙂
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Hi Peter! Your tips all sound excellent, too. Yes, I’m aware that I look down when I type but the angle isn’t too extreme if I use the writing ledge. I need to invest in a better chair one of these days although this one makes me sit upright. Sounds like you’ve been given good advice and here’s hoping oldness and creakiness don’t get in the way of good writing. Thanks for commenting 🙂
Glad to find you. Another poet. And thank you!
Hi Dusty, Thanks for reading my post. Good to be in touch with you, too! Best wishes with your new blog and watch out for backache 🙂
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Great post on a subject close to my back!
I find desktop with proper chair way the best for me as I am bad at finding good positions in which to write on laptops, phones etc.
Basic stuff like taking regular breaks and exercising a lot are key to keeping back problems at bay. Also good for inspiration and re-charging.
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Thanks for commenting, Jean! Yes, taking regular breaks and walking/exercising definitely helps in all sorts of ways, not just with the back. 🙂
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In 2008 I had a neck injury, which, because I was finishing off writing a book, developing a website for The Reader, and had freelance writing deadlines, I ‘worked through’ and made worse. It got to the point where I could barely move my head and was unable to sit at a desk. It was so bad in fact that eventually I had to get a proper job. Physio put me right though and I stay pain free now by doing press-ups and swinging my arms to loosen the muscles in my shoulders and neck. Keeping moving seems to be the best thing, but as to computer setup, to your laptop stand I would add a chair with arm rests, a separate keyboard and mouse, and a foot rest. One thing I would say from experience is that if there is pain you must stop doing the thing that causes the pain (sitting at a desk in my case) when it starts to hurt. Carrying on regardless is damaging in all kinds of ways. Apart from the physical side, before long the process of writing becomes associated with pain, struggle, and failure, which leaves a lasting aversion to the activity even when the pain is no longer there.
Ouch, Chris! This sounds horrendous. So glad you have it sorted now but if I ever feel like I’m doing too much, one glance at your response above will put me right. Thanks for commenting. 🙂
I feel your pain – literally! My back felt better after getting a decent chair and I’ve got a gel filled mouse mat as my main problem is pain in my wrist. Sometimes I’ve had to wear a wrist support and used a wheat bag that’s microwaved so the heat helps the tension across my neck. I also try to force myself to take a walk round the garden every half hour or so, it’s a good excuse to see my goats and chickens too! Hope your solutions mean you see the back (sorry, I couldn’t resist) of the problem. 🙂 x
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I love your solutions: wheat bags, gel-filled mouse mat, chickens, goats! so I will forgive your pun! 🙂 Taking regular breaks seems key. We humans weren’t designed to sit still at computers. As always, thanks very much for commenting, Helen x
Frequent breaks work for me. I’m a fidget anyway, and rarely sit for more than half an hour at my PC without getting up to walk around (it’s bad for your eyes as well of course to keep staring at a screen). When I feel too tense I ring my favourite beauty salon and book an appointment for a Swedish or Aromatherapy Back, Neck and Shoulders massage. Heaven! But bellydancing warm-ups taught me that the best remedy in the short term is rolling the shoulders – up to the ears, back as far as possible and round to the front a few times, then change direction, and also head rolls, keeping the shoulders still and facing straight forward. Roll your head down, chin on your chest, then slowly roll it across to the right so your ear is almost touching your shoulder, then slowly roll it back across to the other side. Never lift your shouldersw to your ears when doing this! Then hold your head up as if you were a string puppet with a string pulling your head up; again turn your head to the right, looking over your shloulder as far as you can go, then slowly take it round over the left shoulder. A few more shoulder rolls and you should be ok for, ooh! another half hour or so! Don’t overstretch yourself. As soon as you can, take a break, go out in the fresh air and blow the cobwebs away with a brisk walk!
Wow, Andy, quite detailed tips! I bet you had to go for massage after typing that much! There’s something there for everyone. Thanks for commenting. 🙂