Friday, March 24, 2017

Body in Motion

On Tuesday night, I had trouble sleeping. I tossed and turned and wanted to throw something at the alarm when it went off. But I had an appointment -- with a physical therapist. My doctor asked if I'd like to see one after she concluded that the occasional sharp pain I was having around my neck and shoulders could be related to fact that I spend most of my working days at a computer. She suggested that a therapist might do an evaluation and give me some exercises to do.

The therapist did her evaluation and noted that I had limited range of motion in my neck before experiencing pain and that there was a problem with the distance between my shoulder blades. I nodded and explained my bad habit of sitting too much at the computer, even though I use my adjustable standing desk when I work at school. But I have two monitors on that desk, and looking back-and-forth between them counts as "repetitive motion". And at home, I tend to work a lot at my dining room table on my lap top. Wrong position for arms, too much looking down. Even more when I read a book with my head down while slouching in a chair. The physical therapist mentioned that spending hours not moving from a sitting position can be as bad as smoking.

I heard all this and still expected to walk out with exercises to do and come back in three months. Instead, the therapist went off to get a large heating pad and a device with electrodes. She wrapped my neck in the heating pad, put the electrodes on the back of my neck and left me with a magazine. The heating pad to reduce inflammation felt wonderful, so did the pulsing from the electrodes. When the session was over, she came back with the exercises that she wanted me to start doing. And the news that she wanted me to come in twice a week. But the problem should be better soon if I work on my bad habits. Set an alarm and get up and move every hour. Watch my posture. Position my computer properly. Do the exercises.

Actually, I already knew I've been engaging in body abuse. That was why I requested an adjustable  desk at work. But I hadn't allowed myself to think too much about how that might be counteracted by sitting for hours at home, carrying around a shoulder bag that weighs at least ten pounds, and trying to make one trip from garage to house with two grocery bags and a 24-count case of cat food.

Thinking about writing and the body reminded me of a book that is somewhere on my shelf -- diet and exercise for writers. I know it's somewhere, but I haven't found it yet. I did come across Stephen King's On Writing. If you've read his memoir, you'll recall that he is candid about his former drinking problem that he justified at the time with "the Hemingway Defense" (that writers are sensitive, but real men don't show their sensitivities, instead they drink). About his life now, King observes that having a healthy body and a stable relationship (his marriage) enhances his writing. And his passion for writing contributes to his health and his marriage. King has a schedule, writing in the morning and the afternoon when necessary, but reserving evenings and weekends for his family and relaxation.

We all know, writing can be a pain in the neck, the back, the legs, and the posterior. Writing can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, and weight gain. We get eye strain from writing. Too much time alone or the stress of a deadline can make us grouchy and give us insomnia. Knowing when to move our bodies -- to stand up and step away from the computer -- is essential.

I'm going to do better. I don't have the time to go to therapy two times a week, so I will sit up straight and get up when the alarm goes off and pretend I'm my cat, Harry, who wakes up from a sound sleep to turn around and stretch. Zumba. Interval walking. Will do. Yoga. Meditation. Will try.


Charlotte Hinger said...

I started going to a local fitness center last week and am amazed at how much better I'm feeling. Plus it's an ideal place to write in the morning. There's coffee in the little lounge and I feel virtuous (for once) having both the writing and my exercise over with for the day.

Donis Casey said...

I think most people don't realize how physically hard writing is on the body! I'm like you in that I know I should move more. I make a point of taking a thirty minute walk in the middle of every day. Helps a lot! I used to do yoga--I should get back to that.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...


I never thought of writing at a fitness center. That might actually get me to go to one. I've tried joining gyms, and always been a dropout. But there are more family-friendly centers that might have a different vibe.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...


Yes, I'm going to have to make sure I get my thirty minutes every day in. If I don't do it in the morning, I often doing get to it at all. But with spring coming, may be I can get outside and get some morning sunshine.