Writer: stay healthy

Alas, alack! I'll confess. I'm sick. I think the bronchitis I started the year with has rebounded. Probably because I didn't take all the antibiotics since they made me sicker. Sick and bored also therefore I'm entertaining myself by writing off the top of my stuffed up head. Today is an appropriate time to talk about taking care of our bodies.

Physical energy is the raw material of success. Without it, we suffer, and so does our writing. Have you ever left the computer at the end of a writing day and felt as if you'd been trampled by a herd of elephants? Every muscle protests. Your back aches; your neck hurts. Your head pounds; your wrists throb. This was me on too many occasions.

Since I spent most of last year in physical therapy and have more scheduled this year to rehab my back, shoulders, and neck, I feel particularly qualified to speak on this subject. Your body is a temple. It can be a temple of joy or despair depending on how you take care of your body.

When the wrists, and the muscles leading from wrist to forearm, begin to ache, that's the first warning sign of impending trouble. The next pain will come from the nerves, particularly the ulnar, and when that happens, it doesn't whisper trouble. It screams. And you'll scream too - in monumental pain that just won't be alleviated.

Ask around and you'll get people telling you it's tennis elbow or golf elbow or carpal tunnel. Regardless of what you call it, taking a couple of ibuprofen won't make it go away. And you sure can't walk it off. The worst thing you can do, voice of experience here, is ignore it and hope it will go away on its own.

Don't hesitate to contact an orthopedic surgeon or your family doctor at the first sign of trouble. If you're a writer, it's the difference between writing and staring in pain and frustration because you can't make yourself use that hand, wrist, elbow, or arm.

The doctor is able to diagnose where the pain is coming from and can you give you medication like steroids or prescription anti-inflammatories to alleviate it. In mild cases, taking steroids may make the pain disappear and not return. In worse cases, you may be given a prescription for all of the above as well as physical therapy where you'll be taught exercises to make the pain go away and/or to strengthen the joint.

If you haven't experienced nerve damage yet, or if you have and are coming back from a repetitive stress injury, investigate different tools to see what works best for you. If you spend more than an hour a day at a computer, learn how to work effectively by using the proper tools.

I've played with a lot of different mice, uh, mouses, uh... What the heck is the plural for the computer pointer gadget, as my mom calls it?

I've changed to a cordless mouse that is extra-large so it supports my hand completely as my hand rests on it. It's ergonomically designed to be comfortable as my hand rests on it and features a roller ball for scrolling and three additional buttons to be programmed by the user. There are many brands on the market. I also use a cordless comfort keyboard with lots of programmable keys that open and close the applications I've selected, operate my Real Music, etc. So I can punch a button with my less-used left hand for the things I use most often. Another advantage for the cordless keyboard is I can pull it off the desk and rest it in my lap, lean back comfortably in my chair, and pound away.

I've got a fairly expensive office chair with lumbar support, height adjustable arms that are open on the front so I can pull up to my keyboard shelf without bumping anything, and levers that adjust height, tilt, seat and back angle.

These things are necessary for me to work without pain so they're a good investment as well as being tax deductible.

I had my husband use a tape measure to find out what distance from the monitor I'm most comfortable with and had my optometrist write a prescription for computer glasses that work with that distance. I keep them at my computer so they're always there when I need them.

I've recently purchased one of the voice-recognition software products and intend to become accustomed to using it. I’ll continue trying new products and techniques because this is my career. I'm in it for the long haul so I'll do what is necessary to stay healthy. Tomorrow, to the doctor I go for some good old antibiotics.

I impatiently await the return of wellness. Spring is warming up to sing its siren song. My garden beckons. All pales next to the story I'm impatient to unfold, word by word.

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