Thursday, January 17, 2013

Writer, Take Care of Your Back

I have dealt with chronic low back pain for a long time. I've learned to manage it well and take care of myself, but occasionally it flares up and I have to slow down and do some specific care for healing. 

As writers we sit a lot. Sometimes too much. I'd love to try one of those treadmill desks, but I'd have a pretty hard time finding room to put it in my house! I have learned, however, that scheduling some kind of movement into my day is necessary in order to remain productive. It's so easy to convince myself that I too much to do and let that exercise element slip to the bottom of the to do list. I may manage without it for a while, but eventually it does come back to bite me. So I try to be consistent with walking, swimming, and yoga, varying my mode of movement during the week.  

Today I'm passing along some of the things I've learned that help. 

1. Spend the money to get a good chair. I bought a floor model and saved about 30% of the price. Mine is by AllSteel.

2. Make your desk space as ergonomically sound as possible. I purchased a glass and steel computer desk with a pull out shelf for a keyboard. Since I use a laptop, I bought a laptop stand for the desk, a wireless keyboard for the pullout shelf, and a foot rest for the floor. It's not perfect, but it's much better than before. 

3. Set a timer and get up from your desk. Take a walk around the block, stretch, do a load of laundry. This is not as easy as it sounds. When you're in the middle of a scene and the creative juices are pumping, it's hard to stop. So get to the end of the scene and get up out of the chair!

4. Try chair savansana after a long stretch of sitting. Note that the calves, hips and torso are NOT at right angles. I usually don't put my feet all the way through the chair, and use a blanket or towel under the heels and/or calves. You can also place weight on the lower abdomen to enhance the release in the back muscles--a sandbag or a pillow or towel with free weights on top. 

I have tried lots of different types of yoga classes; some are not safe. I highly recommend finding a trained Iyengar teacher, but if you choose another style, make sure your teacher is trained. 

5. Tips from Texas Physical Therapy Specialists, where my son, Dr. Andrew Bennett, is clinical director.
How Can You Prevent Low Back Pain?
  • Keep your back, stomach, and leg muscles strong and flexible
  • Keep your body in alignment, so it can be more efficient when you move
  • Don’t slouch-keep good posture
  • Use good body positioning at work, home, or during leisure activities
  • When lifting, keep the load close to your body
  • Ask for help or use an assistive device to lift heavy objects
  • Maintain a regular physical fitness regimen, staying active can help to prevent injuries

6. If you have low back issues, use wisdom in your other activities. Here are some exercises that can make things worse!
  • Straight leg sit-ups.
  • Bent leg sit-ups or partial sit-ups (curl-ups) when you have acute back pain.
  • Lifting both legs while lying on your back (leg lifts).
  • Lifting heavy weights above the waist (standing military press or bicepscurls).
  • Toe touches while standing.

7. Follow this link to a site that shows exercises for dealing with varying degrees of back pain. Go to screen # 4.

8. A peer reviewed journal article on Therapeutic Application of Iyengar Yoga for
Healing Chronic Low Back Pain. 

8. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to recover when you're dealing with back pain. 

9. Face the fact that you have to schedule in time for a strengthening/conditioning routine. Without it, you risk injury.


  1. Great advice, Dori. I can definitely relate to low back issues.

    1. You're welcome, Carmela. I hope you find some things here that help you stay healthy!

  2. Good work…unique site and interesting too… keep it up…looking forward for more updates.

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