Anyone who sits down to write for hours on end because they cannot break from their beloved creative writing project, or because they have a client deadline to meet, will be painfully aware of the exquisite agony that comes from maintaining certain positions for too long. Working on a laptop can create different issues to working on a desktop – the kind of chair you are in and whether you are using a separate mouse etc – but either way if you stay put for too long it can hurt.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as taking regular breaks and having the odd stretch. That just doesn’t remedy the problems that can set in.
The usual advice
I’m going to assume you’re sitting at a desk to write, and that you are using a desktop, i.e. using a separate mouse. However, it doesn’t much matter how you work because any position held for too long can cause trouble.
Most people will be aware of the steps that can be taken to alleviate the pain of sitting at a computer for hours on end, but in my experience that’s all they do: alleviate rather than solve. Sitting correctly in a decent chair with feet on the floor and not slouching in the spine, having a wrist-rest for your keyboard and on your mouse-mat – these are crucial to delaying the onset of repetitive strain injuries, and to minimising their effects, but how do you proceed when the aches do eventually set in?
If writing is your livelihood then you can’t just stop doing it. You could try some voice-to-text software but I understand those can be very time-consuming to train, and if you’re anything like me – always revising as you go – I imagine that they could be more hassle than they’re worth (although I don’t speak from experience).
Be your own chiropractor
That’s chiropractor not proctologist, which isn’t even worth discussing. There are no doubt websites devoted to that particular pastime, but, hey ho, each to their own – so to speak.
I’m not about to go into too much detail here, but I will unreservedly recommend you look into trigger point therapy. This is something chiropractors use on their patients, but it is something you can easily learn yourself because the trigger points in the human body are always located in the same spots.
What are trigger points?
These are tiny contraction knots in muscle fibres that can cause immense pain (called myofascial pain) that is out of all proportion to their size, and in places entirely unrelated to their actual location in the affected muscle. For example, a trigger point in your neck can cause pain in your back, or one in your back can cause pain in your arm. Most times when we experience pain in a certain spot, massaging the area of pain will not do any good because the pain is being referred from a trigger point in a muscle somewhere else.
Does it work?
This is a proven approach to pain relief that is unfortunately not part of “conventional” medicine. Go to see your doctor with a bad ache and you will get pain killers. If it persists you may be sent for x-rays and lord knows what invasive treatments when all you probably need is to know which trigger point the pain is being referred from.
Once a trigger point is identified by the acute tenderness when pressing on it, half a dozen firm thumb strokes on it are used to encourage it to relax and disappear. It may take some days of repeating this to work, or longer, but in many cases you will feel instant and significant relief.
The one book you need for this is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies. It tells you pictorially exactly where every trigger point is located, where the pain is referred from and to, and what actions have caused the pain to occur. In my experience it is amazingly accurate in every aspect, and wonderfully effective in tackling the pain.
Writers who are in pain when writing may not produce their best work, and may even have to reduce their workload in response. Trigger points that are not effectively dealt with only get worse over time and can lead to chronic problems that can end up being misdiagnosed for years. If you have any aches or pains related to your writing activities, or indeed any non-writing-related pains, check out Amazon and grab a copy.
Despite my name, I am not a doctor.
Nor do I have any link to the author or any financial interest in recommending this book.