Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The 'Eyes' Have It

By Adele Jones and Pamela Heemskerk


As mentioned in our earlier blog posts, strain injuries that develop over many years don’t go away in a hurry. Recent injuries generally respond quickly to treatment, whereas long-term injuries require extended treatment as underlying muscle changes need to be addressed. So prevention is paramount!!

Great – but how do we do that?

If you caught the post-blog chatter last time, you’d have seen a wise suggestion of timing your breaks. Brilliant. Every half-hour you need to get up from your desk, get moving and (here’s the trick) STRETCH out your muscles! Below are some basic stretches to get you started, but if you’re experiencing pain or persistent discomfort (especially at night), ensure you see a health professional for proper assessment and tailored treatment.

Start these stretches gently and hold for a few seconds each time (click on links for more ‘how to’ information). As you limber up, you can deepen the stretch (no pain) and hold it for a little longer.

Cerrvical Spine (neck)

  • Chin tucks (Stretches the muscles between your neck and skull – and no, it won’t give you a double chin! But don’t do this if you have a headache.)
  • Rotation in sitting
  • Side bend in sitting

Thoracic spine (upper back)

  • Shoulder blade squeezes, shrugs and circles (helps prevent shoulder hunch)
  • Rotation in sitting
  • Side bend in sitting
  • Flexion in sitting

Latissimus dorsi stretch (ahhhhhh...)

Pectoral stretch

(All these exercises and more can be found at Physioadvisor.com.)

Not only are stretches important, they also make you feel so good! But just a moment, is there something small we’re overlooking?

(Blink. Blink.)

Every day we blink thousands of times. Tears both moisturise and disinfect our eyes. Blinking ‘washes’ our eyes preventing soreness and infections. Eyes focussed on screens blink much less frequently – as little as once every 30 seconds instead of every 4-6 seconds. (Know that glazed red-eyed stare? Watch someone at a computer and see.) Fortunately prevention is simple – blink, blink!

Our eyes need movement, too. The six little muscles around each eye tire if they work in one position, just as any other muscle does. It’s important to look at objects both nearby and distant to change focal length, as well as looking around to move the eyeball in the socket. (Blink, blink. Eye roll or two?)

Speaking of eyes, do you use glasses to type? Are they old ‘readers’ an optometrist suggested you now use at the computer or multi-focals that just don’t quite focus on the screen? Are you tipping your head back or forward to see properly? Congratulations – you are on the way to getting ‘computer neck’! But that’s a whole other discussion ...

So check in next week for our final post on pains in the neck (... arm ... back ...) where we’ll explore excellent ergonomics, including preventing the dreaded ‘computer neck’. And remember when it comes to writing, no pain – is great!

About the Authors

Pamela Heemskerk has worked as a physiotherapist for over 25 years and has seen firsthand the impact of relatively recent, recognised pain syndromes associated with prolonged use of technology – occurring even in young people. She has undertaken further training in the field of education and is also passionate about educating the community in the effects of hearing loss. She is a keen artist, working primarily with watercolours, and has had numerous short works published.





Adele Jones is the wife of a rehabilitated repetitive strain casualty and has been active in organisational work health and safety roles. Having witnessed the consequences of ergonomic neglect, she is an advocate of sound ergonomic practices. She writes a variety of short works, YA novels (http://rhizapress.com.au/integrate) and historical fiction (http://www.roseandcrownbooks.com). Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and her broad ranging imagination. To find out more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com.

18 comments:

  1. Great post Pamela and Adele. I'm at a writer's retreat at the moment and I'm using a tablet PC instead of my usual big monitor at home. After spending a lot of time yesterday looking at that bright little screen, I did have sore eyes and had to use eye drops. Thanks for the reminder to blink and also move the eyes. Now everyone in the room is wondering why I'm looking at them and rolling my eyes - LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's that one-off extra strain that can cause a big problem. Or 5 -off extra strains perhaps for you this week!
      Adjusting the screen brightness can help your eyes too. E-readers often suggest that you use a dim screen in a low light room so that there is less contrast, and therefore less adapting by the eye between the reader and the room.
      Pause gymnastics, including eye-rolling, could become a writer's best friend!

      Delete
    2. Does that mean I won't get berated for rolling my eyes at you anymore, Nola? :p All the more reason for us to embrace our inner adolescent! Definitely keep up the blinks. (Or perhaps, as you're at a romance writers retreat, you could try an eyelash flutter or two.) :)

      Delete
    3. Thanks Pamela and Adele - Would you believe that in spite of your advice and my commenting that I would follow it, I totally forgot and had dry eye ball by lunchtime? Must remember today! And Adele, I'm onto you with those eye rolls now ;)

      Delete
  2. A very timely and important post. WARNING: The older you are the more important these are as we slow down in activities we once took for granted. Recently I had quite severe pain on a hip which was apparently from a locked joint. Sitting too long in this office chair and then the last straw of sitting in a car for six hours in one day?
    I do have a kitchen timer to remind me how long I've been writing but of course hadn't been using it enough to stand and stretch, move that right shoulder, swing my hands around to stop problems with wrist muscles, etc. Now I have a new timer, still doing those great exercises the physiotherapist gave me to build up my lower thoracic muscles because I never want that pain again. Except for that knee to chin one, now I have more to do for those upper back muscles. Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true, Mary and thank you for pointing that out. As we age, we certainly get stiffer more quickly and need to use frequent short breaks from sustained postures. We often work out a routine that keeps pain at bay until we do that extra thing - like sitting in a car for 6 hours - and then we discover that we weren't quite so fit as we thought!
      Good on you for using the timer!

      Delete
    2. Wise advice, Mary. I think it's so important to establish good habits that incorporate adequate breaks, exercise and stretching in our writing routines, for it's all too easy to get complacent as time goes on. Pain and severe discomfort are never a good reminder. And I know that dreadful hip pain. It can be unrelenting, particularly when you have to do tasks that require sitting and the area is already inflamed. By the sounds of it our physios may have given us a similar set of strengthening exercises. It definitely makes a significant difference over time.

      Delete
  3. Balance/keeping active is definitely an important component to writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely, Terry. Many years ago I remember being physically exhausted with aches and pains after several days of formatting and final corrections on a large electronic document, primarily due to not taking enough breaks. It's unfortunate we so often have to be reminded the hard way. (Even now, at times!)

      Delete
  4. Thanks for the reminders, ladies. I'll bookmark this post, and get a timer for those moments when I'm so focused on what I'm doing, I'll need it. I get eye strain every so often too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great idea, Paula. I often do the same with web pages I want to revisit later. Know that feeling of getting over-focussed on writing. An all too easy trapping. 'Just another scene ...' Maybe we can blame our overactive imaginations for our aches and pains! :)

      Delete
  5. Pamela and Adele, great post! I recently started wearing glasses while using the computer to minimise eye strain. The added benefit is the smoothing out of frown lines and I can also concentrate for longer periods of time without my eyes feeling fatigued :) I'm really enjoying your series - thanks so much for sharing with us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Narelle (& the ACW administrators) for having us. It's been a fun series. Great to hear you've not only helped reduce your eye strain, but have also managed a 'beauty benefit' along with it! Well done. :)

      Delete
    2. So glad it is helpful. I think you've found the fountain of eternal youth - there'll be a stampede of writers to the optometrist!

      Delete
  6. I have a Repetitive strain injury. I have tennis elbow and I agree its easier to prevent although I am not sure how I would have. But I have learnt one issue for me is the mouse. Using the mouse and the scrolling makes the elbow more painful so am trying to use it in the left hand which is now hurting my injured left wrist. I also have Occipital Neuralgia which is made worse by bad posture and neck strain so I am more careful in this regard. As much as I love my physio I have I can't see her as often as needed so need to find ways to reduce the need for weekly visits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Jenny, I too have noticed the mouse can be problematic, especially if you sit with your elbows out (including propped out on arm rests). (We'll talk more about this in next week's blog.) This can cause pain from the wrist, right up to the shoulder. If you have an existing injury you have to be even more mindful of exacerbating strains. I too haven't had time to visit my physio lately, so I've been incorporating standing and stretching into my tasks at work, along with keeping as active as I can. It all helps.

      Delete
    2. Jenny, it's no good at all that you are in pain like this! Tennis elbow is caused largely by wrist extension i.e. when you lift your hand off the mouse but leave the front of your wrist on the desk. A mouse requires sustained amounts of this. Almost always there is tightness in these muscles as well, and stretching and taping are so important. And yes, much as you love your physio, you just can't go every week! Have you tried a track ball mouse at all?
      Can you use computer keys instead of the mouse for scrolling etc? I know there are a whole series of these that will do the same as the mouse. Or purchase a touch screen? (a better option)
      When pain becomes chronic like this, we have to really look at your work set-up and home set-up (domestic chores!), to try to change the way you are doing activities in order to reduce the causing factors until the inflammation has a chance to settle.
      Next week will cover the work station and hopefully give you tips to transfer to other activities.

      Delete
    3. I am learning to use the other hand more. I alternate now, I work as a cleaner and its some of those jobs that caused the issue. I have been able to change few items that were an issue but still cant do some tasks. Ironing lefthanded is challaging.

      Delete