This past year I’ve been battling aches and pains as a result of working behind a computer for over 6 years. Yep, the years of abuse have finally caught up with me and it’s official… at 30 years old, I’m no longer a spring chicken.
In my research to figure out what my specific ailments were caused by, I didn’t find a whole lot of help out there when it comes to the graphics community. Most everything out there is geared for typists and carpel tunnel syndrome…. The Graphics Artist Guild had probably the best information on the subject with this article: “Repetetive Motion Injuries – Symptoms and the Proper Work Place Set-up.” Here’s an excerpt:
Tens of thousands of injuries each year are caused by repetitive motions. There are different ways injuries can happen, but they all result from stress or strain imposed on some part of the body from a task’s repetitive nature. This includes typing, computer mouse use and recurring motions such as twisting, turning and grasping.
Repetitive Motion Injuries can be quite painful and become progressively worse without treatment, possibly resulting in complete loss of function in the affected area. Tingling, numbness, or pain in the affected area, and loss of flexibility or strength are common symptoms. Hands, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders and backs are the most common areas affected.
The majority of my problem was caused by working waaaaaay too many hours using a Wacom Intuos 2 Graphics Tablet on a desk that was about 6 inches too high with a non-adjustable chair. As a result my shoulder was in constant strain and tension along with the ongoing mental stress of self-employment and looming project deadlines. Not a good combination. I worked like this for well over a year and never really gave the discomfort much of a second thought, just par for the course with this line of work I figured. That is until it started to effect the muscles down the center of my body that are right next to my lungs and ribcage. That got my attention.
The pain was incredible and I was more than a little concerned because it didn’t feel like it was being caused by my tablet/computer use. They call it “Referred Pain” which is pain or discomfort in one area that’s caused by a chain reaction from another area. After a couple of doctors visits and a couple of x-rays to rule out lung cancer, the next logical step was physical therapy.
I was not at all looking forward to taking time out of my day a few times a week to play around with rubber band exercise equipment, but I’ve had great results from it. I’m on week 7 and I feel as though my shoulder is back to about 90%. Along with physical therapy however, comes a lifestyle change that I’m struggling to maintain and probably always will. New changes include the following:
- Good Posture. No more slouching, sitting up straight is everything.
- No more 16-18 hour days behind the desk.
- Breaks. One at least every hour or so. This has been the toughest because you risk losing the “flow.”
- Exercise. Even if its just a daily 15 minute walk.
- Stretching. Specific stretches to my unique issues has helped tremendously.
- Alternate between the mouse and tablet when possible.
So I guess with all that said, the best advice I can give to you is this: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, and don’t ignore discomfort. Everyone needs to find the right ergonomics setup for their individual situation. Pain is there for a reason… to warn you that something is not right.
Anyone out there with a similar experience? I’d love to hear about it.