Monday, September 17, 2012

The Hardest Thing

Aside from "where do you get your ideas" and "I have an idea - how do I get a book published" the most common question I get seems to be "What's the hardest thing about writing?"

My answer may surprise a lot of people - typing.

No, it's not because I don't know how to type. I type very well. In fact, at my last test, I typed over 120 wpm. That's not tortoise speed, for sure. No, the reason is because I have an inoperable mid-back injury (referred to loosely as an "impact injury") and the typing position is one that aggravates my back the most. Essentially, what happens is that when my arms are lifted and extended out, it pulls on my middle back. The vertebrae there are weak from injury and they start to shift to one side, which makes the muscles flare and harden and pinch a nerve that runs up my spine through my neck and out to the end of each arm. Very painful when in the 7+ - 10 range of flare.

Many, many people have this type, or similar, back problems, and let's face it, age is NOT our friend. So I thought I'd talk about the things I do to keep my back pain to a minimum, while still managing to type 12-14 hours a day.

First off, I have an excellent therapist. I saw him twice a week for months to get my spine straight again, but once we got in back in line, I only have to see him for monthly maintenance or the occasional extra visit if I've overdone it and stressed my back too much. Make sure when choosing a chiropractor/therapist, you choose one that is highly reputable. Mine was recommended by a back surgeon, so I figured that's as good a recommendation as you can get.

Second, take frequent breaks. I am one of those people who gets working and forgets, so I set a timer on my computer to remind me to stand and stretch every 30 minutes.

Third, make sure you're working in the most ergonomic way possible for YOUR situation. No solution is one size fits all because all injuries are different. Make sure your equipment is working for you and not against.

Fourth, I went the extra step and bought an air desk. When working at home (I don't have one at the day job), I spend part of my day working while standing, which works a completely different set of muscles. And it's really good for your circulatory and respiratory system. Here's a pic of the air desk I have. It is adjustable height and can be used with my treadmill, although I use it most often with a wall-mounted 32" monitor, so that way, I'm not bending my neck down to see the screen.

Fifth, I have a tens unit (a small box that sends a steady flow of electricity into the muscle groups you've placed the pads on. It fits on my belt loop and can be worn all day with people rarely even noticing I have it on. I also have a spa tub and a spa outside that I use on a regular basis.

Sixth, my newest acquisition, which arrives tomorrow is a zero gravity massage chair. This will allow me to remove all weight from my back while also receiving either a relaxing massage or stretching massage. Here's a pic of the chair.
I've also made a ton of small adjustments - carry smaller purses with less weight. Carry a backpack when carrying more weight so that it's evenly distributed. I stopped doing any chores that stressed my back and hired those out to people with healthy backs. And a host of other things.

It sounds like a lot, and it is, BUT if my back is flared, I can't work except in horrible pain, so I take all these steps to ensure I can continue to work at the pace *I* want - not at the pace my body wants to dictate.

Deadly DeLeon


Mo said...

I hear you and congratulations for being so proactive. I have injuries to my left shoulder and right knee that were only partially corrected with surgery. I visit a sports injury massage therapist once a week and her work is a big part of keeping me pain free and mobile. Taking breaks from my desk & keyboard for stretching and the other things you mentioned are helpful and part of my daily routine. Wishing you continued success in managing your back.

Jana DeLeon said...

Thanks, Mo! It's amazing how a bunch of small changes can make a huge difference, isn't it?

I have questionable knees but I started taking Nordic Naturals Omega 3-6-9 fish oils and the difference was AMAZING! Do you take something like that?

Unknown said...

Feel for you. Last year I was diagnosed with a spinal fracture in my lower back. I had ignored the back pain so long, that the ligaments and muscles from lower back to thigh froze up. One morning woke up and my leg didn't work. Thought I had pulled a muscle but after a few days of not getting any better headed to the ER. First question was didn't you have back pain. My answer "of course, but I work in surgery almost everyone who works in the OR goes home now and then with back pain. So how was I suppose to know it was different." I was out of work for 7 weeks on crutches, then another month of back to work on light duty with a cane. Also did physical therapy and even the therapist was worried that I would not get full gain of the ligament. It took 8 months of physical therapy, now I just keep up the exercises at home. Had to change my work schedule to night shift so I'm not constantly scrubbed all day lifting heavy trays and patients. My doctor also, advised getting massages regularly, so now I go every other week for a massage. Still have days when I overdue it and my back will spasm. Luckily it is not often.

Never realized how much I did everyday, until I wasn't able to walk without the crutches. Or even trying to get up out of chair with a leg that wouldn't work.

My congratulations to you for still being able to write, when I know somedays you must feel like it's the last thing you want to do. Let me know how the massage chair works, it sounds like it would be heaven.

Mo said...

My doctor started me on Glucosamine Chondroiton years ago and recently added Vitamin D3 and Biotin. She said they don’t help everyone but they improved the comfort in my joints and muscles tremendously.

Jana DeLeon said...

Sabina - how HORRIBLE! It would have scared me to death to have my leg freeze like that. I'm so glad they figured it all out for you, but the fun is never really over, is it?

I've heard that infrared heat is much better for muscular problems that regular heating pad, but I haven't checked into the layman's ability to purchase such things. My massage chair does come with infrared heat, but I need to see if I can find something more portable that I could simple lay across my shoulders/back while working. Maybe that would help your leg and back?

Jana DeLeon said...

Mo - that's great! I take GC also. You should try the Fish Oil. Go to a Whole Foods or other healthy place. Make sure you get Nordic Naturals brand. My coworker is into all things holistic and is a treasure of information about the absolute best products on the market. :)

I think the fish oils did more for me than the GC, but I continue to take both. It certainly can't hurt!

Unknown said...

I have see the the handheld infared massagers. Have thought of them, but it would be hard to reach my lower back. It may help on the thigh area, where the ligament runs. Right now, going for bi-monthly massages seems to be helping. The massage therapist is really great and he also does hip and leg manipulations that stretches out the ligament and muscle.

You are right the fun is never really over. Just have to keep up with the PT exercises & massages.