Downward Facing iPad – 3 Tips for Relieving Computer Back Syndrome

Working from my laptop comes with a lot of benefits. On days when my workload is lighter, I can spend extra time with my family. On days when my workload is heavier, I can work in seclusion without interruption for long periods of time. Some days I find myself agreeing with American novelist Jonathan Lethem who said, “I work on a laptop specifically so I can work in cafes and pretend I’m part of the human world.” On those days, I join the other writers, bloggers, graphic designers, and other people who conveniently use a public WiFi connection to work from their laptops.

The Computer Generation

The people born in the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s were referred to as Generation X. The children born within the next two decades’ were called Generation Next. However, those monikers are fairly meaningless in today’s society because everybody seems to be part of the computer generation. From preschoolers who learn their colors and numbers on an iPad to grandparents who use Skype to communicate with their families back home in Victoria, B.C, everyone seems plugged into the internet, even the people who take advantage of wireless capabilities.

However, the repetitive motion involved with using technological gadgets can cause muscles undue strain resulting in both tightening and shortening. Tension creates pain in the head, neck, and back. There’s even a condition called computer back syndrome, which is what I was facing after spending a couple of weeks hunched over at my desk for most of my waking hours. I went to my doctor thinking I’d strained my back while doing some light gardening, but was shocked to find out that my sedentary job which required no physical activity at all was the culprit.

Relief for Computer Back Syndrome

My job requires me to sit at the computer, but sitting at the computer for long periods of time causes my back to ache. Even though I try sitting with good posture, the longer I sit the more relaxed I become. My upper arms hunch forward until I notice a throbbing pain that starts at the base of my neck and runs down between my shoulder blades and into my lower back. Fortunately between my family doctor and the chiropractor she recommended, we were able to come up with a way for me to relieve the pain without my having to sacrifice the job I loved. Here are a few of the things they suggested. Hopefully they’ll help you, too.

  • Stretch the tension away. Yoga was a huge help in relieving the pain of my computer back syndrome. The stretches were not only helpful to my tense muscles, but they were also relaxing and gave me a way to practice a bit of meditation as well. My favorite is Downward Facing Dog. I’ve even laid my iPad on the floor and watched webcasts while stretching.
  • Own your office. Of course your office is your own, but do you own it – or does your office own you? Replacing outdated equipment like your chair, computer mouse, and monitor with more ergonomic models can help you to both relieve your back pain and prevent other serious, office-related problems like carpal tunnel syndrome for bloggers, graphic designers, website developers, and anyone else who spends a lot of time at their desk.
  • Take a break. This is the one that was most difficult for me to follow. When I’m “in the zone” during a writing session, the last thing I want to do is take a break. However, I quickly learned that a short break was beneficial, and not just to my back. Using a kitchen timer, I scheduled breaks at random intervals throughout the day. Knowing I was timing myself kept me from procrastinating and my workday became more productive within that first day of using it.

New Technology for an Old Problem

You wouldn’t use outdated technology to run the computer in your home office, so why would you use outdated technology to treat computer back pain? New advances in medical science mean good news for those who suffer from chronic back pain. Psychotherapy, relaxation techniques, and other alternatives are a common first choice for tackling pain from computer back syndrome, where just a few years ago people would have turned to medication as a first resort.

I know of a couple of WordPress theme designers in the Vancouver area who traded out the chairs in their home office for exercise ball chairs, and gave up driving to a restaurant for lunch in favor of bringing a lunch from home and taking a quick walk. Their posture improved, they lost weight, but most importantly they felt better. Even though a change in your lifestyle might seem small, when added up over time it can have a lasting, positive effect on your overall well-being.

About the Author

Freelance author Becky James-Muth was first published during her first year of college, back when she was still pecking out angst-filled poetry on her grandmother’s Royal typewriter. In the time since she’s worked to build an impressive set of credentials, marry a firefighter who is also her best friend, and help raise their two sons who are now teenagers. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, Becky enjoys watching classic movies with her golden retriever, shopping local thrift stores, and trying out new recipes.

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