Every story should have a happy ending, right? I am convinced that I am not going to get better. My doctors back me up on this theory. We are working together to manage the pain, not solve the pain. I don’t have a happy ending for this story. But, the positive side is that the use of ergonomics is growing exponentially—and is helping me write this blog. When I first asked for a stand-up desk in 2002, my HR department threatened to fire me if I re-arranged the furniture. Apparently, five miles of gray cubicles is the best way to get the most out of valued employees. We’ve come a long way in 15 years. Today I see stand-up desks advertised on TV, and even in IKEA! And people don’t look at me strangely when I mention it.
How am I writing this blog? First, I have an automatic stand-up desk. I press a button and it moves up and down to whatever position I need. I sit for 20 minutes, stand for a half hour. Then a break for stretching exercises. My physical therapist wants me to “practice” sitting, so I get used to the idea of sitting being part of my normal life. She wants me to sit for a little bit every day, even if it hurts. I use a chair that sits pretty high, but I wish it went even higher to take the pressure off my leg. Sometimes I use a blanket and a pillow or two for elevation, and place my inflatable Relax the Back pillow (which I carry everywhere) behind my lumbar spine. The key is that the position is always changing. I couldn’t have a stand-up desk with only the two positions of sit and stand. There needs to be different levels for both standing and sitting.
But even that’s not enough. Even if I had all these blog posts memorized, word for word, I simply couldn’t type them out. Why? Because my hands are shot. As with sitting, I can type for a little bit, but then my hands begin to hurt and get progressively worse. There is a sharp jolt that goes from my right shoulder down to my arm and to my hand. You’ve heard of tennis elbow, but have you ever hear of “mouse shoulder”? Yeah, you can get an injury from using your mouse. I had to go to physical therapy for this and work out next to guys who had injuries from extreme snowboarding or running marathons. Makes for great conversation at the clinic:
OTHER PT PATIENT: “I twisted my back rescuing 30 schoolchildren from a burning bus. How did you injure yourself?”
ME: “I entered too much data into an Excel spreadsheet.”
Not usually considered a dangerous setting, but there are so many obstacles I face when I am in front of a computer screen. Back, shoulder, neck, arm, and hand issues all happen at various times. I am building a setup, both on my laptop and on my iPhone, where I can use Dragon Dictation software to dictate my book, voice to text. I am still working on training my Dragon, and using the tips found in Monica Leonelle’s book Dictate Your Book: How to Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter. My voice was not silenced by an oppressive government, but rather by a failing body. Thanks to advances in ergonomics, dictation is giving me some of my freedom of speech back.
The human body was not made for sitting all day. This society of all-day-long desk jockeys is a mass sitting disability just waiting to happen. And ergonomics is not only for the ones who suffer; it can also be used as a preventive measure for the non-afflicted.
I fear that sitting disability will gain awareness, not from any book or movement. It will gain attention because more people will acquire it from the increased number of hours spent in front of their computers at work and home. The theory that sitting too much equals a sitting disability is controversial and much debated. I hope those without a sitting disability who are reading this book will take note and try to “get healthy” in the office regardless. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Ergonomics is that prevention in the form of stand-up desks, ergonomic chairs, keyboards and mice, regular movement, and dictation, for everybody who is pounding the keyboard. One. Letter. At. A. Time.