Hunchback of Laptop Land

Hunching over my laptop has been killing me!  I was glued to this screen 16/7 during my four years of PhD work.  In those years I was also teaching full-time and had plenty of course prep and record-keeping to do on top of research and writing.

Now that I’m transcribing, writing, and blogging everyday, the laptop is taking it’s revenge once again.

Starting in February, I had random pains shooting up the back of my neck.  I looked for an osteopath in Hampton Roads, but found I would have to commute a long distance to obtain such service.

Skeleton model for demonstrating correct alignment.

Dr. Jonathan Wills, osteopath.

An osteopath has more training than a chiropractor and typically uses a more holistic, long-term approach.

Here in Dublin, an awesome osteopath was just two blocks away, at the Elbowroom Clinic.  Jonathan Wills is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) as well as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).

The Elbowroom website explains that Jonathan “studied at the world renowned British College of Osteopathic Medicine which takes a naturopathic, whole-body approach to osteopathy.”

I’ve visited him a number of times to treat the issues he identified on my first visit: (1) poor posture that resulted in part from hunching over my laptop to view a tiny screen way down at finger-tip level, (2) tightened muscles on one side of my body that effectively made one leg shorter than the other, (3) slightly low blood pressure that is one culprit in keeping my fingers and toes freezing cold (there’s not much we can do here short of insulating the right places with warm fabric), and (4) shallow breathing (that I’ve been correcting through yoga).

Unfortunately, I’d also been clenching my teeth in my sleep and that lead to all kinds of horrific problems that I’m still sorting my way through.  I put an immediate end to much of the teeth gnashing because I realized that it generally happens when I sleep face-down.  So I stopped sleeping face down — cold turkey — and voila, 95% less gnashing.  A great deal of damage has already been done, though, and I’ll try to resolve some of those problems while I’m home for Christmas.

A peer of mine in the States cracked a tooth as a direct result of gnashing her teeth while under stress from her PhD work.  As personally embarrassing as all this might be, I decided to post a blog on the topic to help others who might be suffering from similar conditions.

I told Jonathan when I asked to take his photo that I wanted to “extol the virtues of osteopathy.”  Well-executed osteopathy has helped me a great deal and I know that the benefits will follow me far into the future.  I’ll have better health when I’m old because of the investment I’m making today.

The neck pain is gone and I’ve come a long way toward developing good posture.

And so my laptop hasn’t quite beaten me yet!  We’re still trying to resolve our relationship problems and learn to play well together….

4 Comments

  1. Great posting about posture problems associated with prolonged computer use. I’m guessing that with the increased use of laptops (where you can’t raise the monitor to the proper height while effectively using the attached keyboard), more people are having such problems. Below is a link to the OSHA (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) website on “Ergonomic Solutions: Computer Workstations” which includes the proper height (and distance) of monitors. It doesn’t specifically mention laptops but for extended use, you could raise the laptop to the proper height (and place it at the proper distance) and use an external keyboard.

    http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/components_monitors.html

    Monitor Quick Tips (from the website)

    Put monitor directly in front of you and at least 20 inches away.
    Place monitor so top line of screen is at. . . or slightly below eye level.
    Place monitor perpendicular . . . to your line of sight. . . tilting the screen no more than 10 to 20 degrees.

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