It’s 5:00 am. Prime time to work on healthy habits. Moms of young children stealthily creep down the hall to put a yoga DVD on the bonus room TV. Fitness buffs push through the front doors of gyms. Boomer-aged men jog down neighborhood streets, listening to The Eagles on their iTunes playlist.
Writers quietly pour a cup of coffee, start up their computer, and… sit down.
How many hours we each spend in front of the screen varies. But one thing is sure. Writing, as a profession, can be hazardous to your health.
Computer Vision Syndrome
According to a 2010 study, incidences of Computer Vision Syndrome occur in as high as 50 to 90 percent of people that regularly work with computers.
The conclusion stated, “Because computer use is such a high visual demanding task, vision problems and symptoms have become very common at today’s workplace. The symptoms can vary but mostly include eye strain, headache, dry and irritated eyes, light sensitivity and double vision.”
The study participants were given prescription eye drops to combat their visual fatigue, but there are two more natural options to help avoid CVS altogether.
The first, most difficult choice, would be to limit your screen time. I know. Get real.
Consider it, though. There possibly are ways you could reduce your time in front of the glowing orb that wouldn’t impact your writing work.
- Instead of taking notes online, go back to pencil and paper.
- Reduce recreational use of screens.
- Pledge to be “screen free” during certain times of day. During lunch break, take a walk and don’t scroll facebook on your phone.
Another way to reduce eye strain from video displays is to wear blue light blocking glasses. (I’m actually wearing some now.) Blue light from screens have been shown to damage cells in the eye more rapidly than other colors of light, and blue blocking glasses seem to be a way to combat that. The lenses also reduce the visual perception of flicker on the screens. This, in turn, can keep your eyes healthy by reducing eye strain and headaches.
Tendinosis from Typing
No, I didn’t mean to say tendonitis. Or carpal tunnel. Those words are often used interchangeably for any old pain someone develops in their tendons or wrists, but tendinosis is the most accurate term.
“Tendinosis is a degeneration of the tendon’s collagen in response to chronic overuse; when overuse is continued without giving the tendon time to heal and rest, such as with repetitive strain injury, tendinosis results. Even tiny movements, such as clicking a mouse, can cause tendinosis, when done repeatedly.”
Well, that’s no good. *hits enter*
Now that we have identified the correct term for the type of repetitive-use injury that is most likely to happen to writers, we can get the proper recommendations on prevention and recovery.
- When typing, take a break for one minute every 15 minutes and a five-minute break every 20–30 minutes.
- Be sure your wrists are resting in a neutral position while typing.
- Use bracing or taping, if necessary.
- Light stretching, massage, and icing can all help alleviate pain.
I once typed for six hours straight with very few breaks. The next day my wrists were killing me. And there have been several writing weekends where it became difficult to continue to tap the keys as I neared the end of my marathon. But our profession needs to be healthy and sustainable, so that means maybe I should make avoiding tendinosis more of a priority.
We’re All Going to Die- From Sitting
Like me, maybe you were thinking that activities such as bungee jumping or skydiving were way more dangerous than sitting at your desk writing.
Which is rather a shame, because I’d like to use that as my excuse the next time I’m invited to do something crazy. However, the Mayo Clinic wants us all to know, “Any extended sitting — such as behind a desk at work or behind the wheel — can be harmful. What’s more, spending a few hours a week at the gym or otherwise engaged in moderate or vigorous activity doesn’t seem to significantly offset the risk.”
People who logged more than four hours of screen time a day had a nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause and about a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease.
So what can you do about it? Quit writing? Work as a cashier?
Staying Healthy As A Writer
Mayo also let us know, “The solution seems to be less sitting and more moving overall. You might start by simply standing rather than sitting whenever you have the chance or think about ways to walk while you work.” That’s better news. And the ways to add in small movements are numerous.
- Stand to talk on the phone, when taking breaks, or eating snacks.
- Try out a standing desk, or use a high table or counter to bring your computer up to your level.
- Walk on a treadmill while working. Put your computer and keyboard on a stand. Vertical desks already exist for this purpose.
- Break tradition and have your meetings while walking outside, or stand while you video chat.
As a writer, I’d love to say that running from my fans keeps me in top shape. In reality, I have to work to stay healthy enough to continue having the career I love. And as a healthcare writer, I especially want to avoid making poor health choices. I hope that you, friends, will do the same!
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This post was written as part of the #CarnivalOfHealth, a Pop Up Blog Carnival hosted by the Healthcare Marketing Network.
More great posts by freelance healthcare writers on this topic can be found on the Healthcare Marketing Network blog.
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