Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ergonomics for Writers Part Three: Stretching

By: Catherine Dilts:

Your muse is perched on your shoulder, pouring inspiration by the bucket into your mind. You are in the groove. Two hours into your marathon writing session, you notice an annoying twinge in your back. Your wrist aches. Or maybe there’s a pain in your neck you can no longer ignore.

You may not think of writing as a physically demanding activity. Sure, it’s not on the same level as construction work, waiting tables, or performing surgery. However, the repetitive motion of typing, the long hours sitting in front of a computer, and a poorly arranged workstation can take their toll. Stretching can prevent aches and pains, and alleviate them when they do happen.

In Ergonomics for Writers Part One, we covered posture and the correct adjustment of your chair and desk. Part Two explained how to avoid eye strain and wrist damage.

Professional ergonomist Mary Plehal shares her ergonomic tips for office workers. Even the most exercise-averse writers can benefit from these simple steps.

Aches and Fatigue

  • Aches and fatigue are preventable and are a sign that ACTION should be taken
  • Addressing aches and fatigue early can prevent a work injury or general ‘wear and tear’ that can lead to arthritis
  • Inform your manager or supervisor immediately if you feel aches or fatigue
  • Don’t assume you’re ‘just getting older’ or that aches and pains are to be expected

The Benefits of Stretching

  • Reduced muscle tension and increased muscle length
  • Improved joint mobility
  • Enhanced muscle coordination
  • Increased circulation
  • Increased energy levels (from increased circulation)
  • Delayed onset of muscle fatigue
  • Enhanced performance in skilled activities
  • Improved posture
  • Mental relaxation

Safe Stretching Don’ts

  • Don’t stretch cold muscles, warm up first
  • Don’t bounce, go slow and steady
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • If you’ve had a hip replacement, don’t cross your legs or bend past 90 degrees during a stretch
  • Don’t stretch to the point of feeling sharp pain
  • Don’t wait until you’re sore to stretch

Safe Stretching Do’s

  • Start with good posture before you stretch!
  • Try to relax the muscle you are stretching
  • Stretch in the opposite direction of your main work positions (that usually means backward)
  • Breathe easy and deep, don’t hold your breath
  • Take your time
Good Stretches for Office Work –

Below are 9 recommended stretches for writers.


  • A well adjusted chair combined with good posture will greatly increase sitting comfort
  • No one position is good all of the time. Get out of your chair and move/stretch often.

When all else fails  –
The University of Michigan offers these details for computer stretches:
But what if good posture and stretching don’t cure what ails you?
When to seek medical care: See a clinician if you experience:
  • Constant pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Other problems that interfere with daily tasks

This ends the three part series on Ergonomics for Writers. Many thanks to Mary Plehal, professional ergonomist. I hope you’ve been able to use tips for adjusting your work area, reducing eye and wrist fatigue, and stretching to avoid injury.

Other resources:

About the Author: Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine's stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains, fishing, and running. The third book in her Rock Shop Mystery series arrives October 10. You can learn more about Catherine and her writing at:

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