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How to Avoid the Physical Hazards of Blogging

Posted By Darren Rowse 21st of September 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

hazards of blogging-health.pngToday Massage Therapist Lovelyn Bettison from Art of Balanced Living and Massage Therapy Benefits writes some tips on How to Avoid the Physical Hazards of Blogging.

Sitting in a chair in front of a computer for extended amounts of time isn’t the best thing for your health. As bloggers we do it on a regular basis. This puts us at risk of getting neck, shoulder and upper back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and lower back and sciatic nerve pain. Don’t be scared. I’m not saying that choosing to be a blogger condemns you to a lifetime of pain. If you know how to take care of yourself, you can prevent these problems from occurring.

I’m a licensed massage therapist. When I decided to start blogging professionally, I was well aware of the physical risks, but I ignored them and worked on my blogs for hours on end. I ignored the tingling in my palms and numbness in my fingertips and continued to work. I knew these were signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, but I didn’t care because I had a job to do. Then one morning I woke up, and I couldn’t turn my head to the right. The right side of my neck and my right shoulder throbbed with pain. That’s when I decided that I needed to change the way I work.

The Problems

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the nerve that runs through the wrist into the hand. This nerve is called the median nerve. The median nerve passes through a thin space in your wrist, along with the tendons that connect to your fingers. When these tendons become overworked, they get inflamed and put pressure on the median nerve. This causes the burning, tingling and numbness associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause atrophy of the muscles in the hand and loss of the ability to grip. Trust me, you don’t want that to happen.

The neck, shoulder and back pain associated with working at the computer come from bad posture and staying in one position too long. Sciatica can develop from sitting down too long. All of these problems can be solved by making a few simple changes.

Posture is Key

Don’t slouch. If you slouch with your shoulders rounded forward, you’ll get upper back and neck pain. When you’re at your computer you should sit with your back relaxed yet straight. That may sound like a contradiction to some, but it’s possible.

When most people try to sit up straight, they pull back their shoulders and thrust out their chests and end up putting more strain on their backs. When you sit up straight try to imagine you’re being pulled up from the crown of your head. Your shoulders should be relaxed. Your arms should hang loosely at your sides. Your head and neck should be straight. Place both feet flat on the floor in front of you about hip width or wider apart.

Adjust your monitor height. If you have to look up or down to see you monitor, you need to change its height. Most people’s monitors are too low. Try putting some books under it to change the height.

Buy an ergonomic keyboard. When you type your wrists should be straight. If they’re bent at all you’re putting yourself at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. A good ergonomic keyboard is an excellent investment. I have a laptop, but when I’m working at home I use an ergonomic keyboard with it.

Get back support. If you have low back problems, get a chair with good back support or roll up a hand towel and place it in the small of your back.

Take your hand off the mouse. Holding your hand on the mouse causes tension in your neck and shoulders. When you’re not using the mouse let go of it. Learn shortcuts on your computer. This doesn’t only save time, it reduces the amount of time you use the mouse and that saves you the pain of not being able to turn your head. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Take frequent breaks. Get up every hour and move around the room. I’ve set up my work station so that I can work while standing up. If I’m working on something that I don’t want to take a break from, I’ll stand up for awhile. If you can maintain good posture and stand to work, it’s a good way to give your sciatic nerve a rest.

Self Massage

Self massage can also help prevent these problems. Here’s a simple massage that you can do several times daily.

Hold the hand that you’re going to massage in front of you with the palm up. With the fingers of your opposite hand encircle the base of the palm just above the wrist joint and squeeze gently. Hold that for a few seconds. This is to open up the area that the median nerve runs through.

Then massage your palm by placing the thumb of the opposite hand on your palm and the fingers on the back of your hand. Using a squeeze and release motion to massage your entire palm.

Use a similar method to massage up your forearm. You want to massage the muscle between the two bones of the forearm. You can squeeze your forearm between your thumb and fingers and move your thumb and fingers back and forth across the muscles vigorously. Do this all the way up the forearm to the elbow. Go over any areas that feel sore more than once to help loosen them.

Don’t massage the area in the crease of the elbow. There are a lot of nerves and blood vessels close to the surface there and massaging the area could damage them.

Rest your arm on your lap or a table so that your upper arm and shoulder are completely relaxed. Now massage your upper arm. Use your whole hand to squeeze and release the muscles.

Massage your shoulder by grabbing the large meaty muscle at the top of your shoulder and squeezing it while twisting it slightly. This may hurt, but it should be a hurts so good pain not agony. If your shoulder isn’t too tense, the muscle will slowly slide out of your grip on its own. If it doesn’t, just release it after a few seconds. Do this a couple times.

Massage the back of your neck by running your fingers back and forth across the muscles beside your spine. Don’t massage on the spine. Do this from the base of your skull to the bottom of your neck.

You can also massage the large muscle in the front of your neck. It runs from behind your ear to your collarbone. You can squeeze that muscle between your thumb and forefingers. It should slide slowly from your grasp like your shoulder did. If it doesn’t, just squeeze and release down the length of the muscle.

Do all of that again on the other side and your done. It should only take 5 minutes to do both sides.

Doing these things along with eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water will help you be a healthy, happy blogger.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Thanks for the timely warning. Will add these tips in my daily routine for sure.

  2. I have to buy myself a new monitor…my CRT monitor is stuck facing down a bit and it makes me slouch! But I want one of those chairs in the picture!

  3. Good tips, but where can I get that chair pictured at the top? Seriously, that looks uber-comfortable.

  4. Yeah, I noticed that most of the monitors have a really low base! My monitor is up at it’s highest, and my eye level is 3/4 up the monitor’s screen – bearable I guess.

    With a laptop, your monitor is even lower, and your keyboard even worse to type on :(

  5. Great post. does laying down on the couch typing sideways on a laptop looking up and to the left fall into the “you should not do it” catagory?

    I really want one of those chairs, I better get to blogging more so I can get it.

  6. These are great tips and I have already started implementing them. I don’t want to get pains and ruin my body because I have chosen that I really want to be a blogger.
    So now I plan to be healthy and active AND blog at the same time.

  7. Excellent advice – I’ve just raised my monitor…!

    There’s another important point too. Lack of pain, relaxed muscles, plenty of breaks – i.e. all of the advice in this blog – will lead to a more relaxed brain. And that will mean better levels of concentration, reduced psychological stress and therefore higher levels of motivation, attention and all the other things we need to write well.

    In other words, the excellent advice in this posting will also help your mind create better blogs.

  8. Awesome tips. But I’ve known about these tips long before my blogging days, back when I was still a game addict!

  9. Awesome advice. I think a lot of us forget that humans are meant ot be physically active and breath fresh air.

    I like to ride a bicycle over to the coffee shop with my laptop strapped to the top of the handle bars.

    A tandem bike is perfect for this technique if you’re in the back, because you don’t have to steer.


  10. Hello Lovelyn

    thanks for this great article about basic precautions,

    i am sure many Blogger/computer users were looking for something of this sort,

  11. I loved this article and hubby and I, sitting at side by side computers adn having one glass of wine proceeded to stretch our arms and do self massage on the wrists..
    we were both laughing becuase as hubby said it felt almost like someone else was massaging the wrist (not quite the same but close).


  12. I remember two months ago New york times had this article claiming a blogger died due to too much blogging and that blogging is causing Obesity, they noted Mark Arrington of Techcrunch has added more weight since he started blogging.

    Every blogger should learn how to balance his life.

  13. Oh man,
    Working all day on the computer, and then most of the evening online. It’s a wonder I’m not in worse shape, and it’s not even like I’m keeping up with my fitness either. It’s tough to fit everything into one day and still find time for workingout.
    The chair in the pic looks fab, and reminded me of the “Matrix”, and what a way to connect! Plug me in eh?
    Thanks for the good article. Until they come out with something that lets us go more direct to our systems (mental interface vs manual interface) I guess we should all pay attention to the great suggestions provided by Lovelyn.

  14. thanks darren for not only concern about bloggers’ income but also for our health. hehehe.

    and another thing, i remember one of my physician friend says, LCD monitor is more eye-friendly than CRT monitors. So if your still using CRT monitors, it’s now time to upgrade.

  15. Great tips, even for those who don’t blog, just spend lots of time in front of the computer, although I have to figure out a more elegant way to adjust the monitor…

    Using the keyboard shortcuts is also a good advise, not only saves time, but I can look like a computer-guru :D

    Although I write half my post with pen and paper, and then I simply type it up, I’m sure I’ll adopt these techniques!

  16. It’s the frequent breaks that really make a difference!

  17. Great advice Darren…may I add…the chair you buy plays a critical part in where your limbs lay and can eliminate many of the risks we face being idle-annies ;) I scored a ripper from Office works 3 years back for a smidgen under $400 and its stopped all of my aches/pains, bar the ones I get when ‘brain-freeze’ hits my copy-writing nerve! It was their ‘ergonomic option’..looks weird but is a blast to work in.

  18. This is a great post for anyone who sits in front of their computer for long periods of time.

    “When most people try to sit up straight, they pull back their shoulders and thrust out their chests and end up putting more strain on their backs.”

    Yeah, that would be me. :-)
    I tried out your explanation of how to sit up straight and it works great. Thanks so much for this very helpful post! Eric.

  19. A great and informative post, some really useful advice here and some I’ll put into practice, thanks!

  20. Getting up and walking around once an hour is a MUST! All of your tips are excellent. Except I could never get into the ergonomic keyboard. It always felt too foreign for me.

    I’m just starting to launch a site of my own focusing on news blogging and these recommendations will come in handy.

    And at risk of sounding too forward, if anyone has any suggestions for my site, I’d love to hear it!

  21. If you use a laptop, a great set up is to buy a Mac ICurve or similar stand for it and a wireless ergonomic keyboard & mouse. That gets the screen up to proper height and gives your wrists a break, too.

  22. Aira Bongco says: 09/22/2008 at 12:01 am

    I guess a warning on my eyesight is essential as well. This is a reality chck on all of us bloggers who just live on our own virtual world. We better get our act together and focus on other aspects of our lives as well.

  23. Thanks for a very informative article. I’ve had (insert all of the above) aches and pains due to long hours in front of the computer. One thing I’d like to point out is that a general fitness program can help to mitigate the effects of being stationary for long periods of time. A lot of my problems started to ease up when I began running and lifting for an hour a day.

    Tink *~*~*

  24. It’s good to see this post … I’ve just started blogging and the desk time is a challenge. Another important thing to mention is eye-strain. It helps to look up from the screen and focus on your nose and something far away alternately, then move you eyes left to right, up and down, and (if you can!) round and round. Massage around the eye socket and make gentle circles over the eye ball with eyes closed.

  25. Thanks for this post. I have some of these symptoms bad. Neck, shoulder and back are so bad. Arm is tingly and numb and fingers sometimes too! I wondered about carpal tunnel but thought, nah. Just had a massage yesterday b/c of the pain and I mean it is pain. I’m much better now. Major work hazard. How often can afford the massage though? Yikes.

  26. Just what I needed. I think in addition to self massage, I’ll treat myself to regular massages at the spa, too.

    Thanks for the excuse!


  27. Is that picture real? I WANT to go that far, that looks sweet! Someone post a link to the manufacturer please.

  28. Lovely post about blogging. I have a diabetes. And i am gonna die so i just want to spend my last years through blogging..

  29. In pilates, one exercise we did was pull in our stomachs as tightly as possible. Extreme. inward and upward. Surprisingly, this helps with posture whether it’s in the car, on a motorcycle, or at my desk.

    The other surprise I learned is that you should be looking upward at your monitor. To the point where you head is slightly tilted back. I had always thought it was straight ahead and slightly up. The key is to keep the precious curve in your neck and avoid subluxation over time.

  30. Sitting at the computer for extended periods of time has got to be the worst thing I have experienced on the Internet. I have carpal tunnel so bad in my right hand and arm that sometimes the pain goes all of the way up to the base of my right ear.

    I don’t think having surgery on your hand and arm solves the problem. I actually think it makes it worse. But taking breaks helps a whole lot and changing the position of your arm and chair helps as well.

    That chair looks too much like a dentist chair so that’s a bit scary for me :)

    Thanks for the info!

  31. This is a great post. I use a laptop, but now that I spend most days working on it at home, I’ve added a stand alone monitor and an ergonomic keyboard (Maxim). I’m feeling much better now :-)

  32. Wow! Where can I get one of those computer chairs? I’m serious! I want one.

  33. Great!! apart from the above i found that my eyes sometimes gets filled with tears for no reason. i worried its because of monitor. i would like to get an advise!

  34. This advice actually goes against what I have been hearing for years as far as monitor height. I’ve always been told that the top of the screen should be slightly below eye level (within 60 degrees).

  35. You know this is a very good article to have. The use of computers has caused some very different affects on the body today. I have had a bout with panic attacks in the recent past, and my posture really came into play with this. I am tall, and usually desks come one size fits all. I lower my chair slightly so I can force myself not to hunch over. I also got one of those prop up your feet blocks to help keep my legs slightly up. Also, I have reinforced my back muscles with crunch exercises, which is also a good stress reliever. Great article, Thanks. There’s always something else to learn.

    Respectfully, Matt Thompson | Mattheosis.com

  36. This is something that i tend to overlook frequently. thanks for taking the time to blog on it. I am guessing the beer doesn’t help either.


  37. Good advice. I really need to straighten up my work space at home. My desk is on an old drafting table, the Mac keyboard I’m using is too small and my chair – well, its just an old cheap chair from a yard sale and it doesn’t adjust much.

  38. I moved my laptop up just 6 inches off the desk and the neck pain I have had for 6 years or so has lessened dramatically. Human are simply not made to type and soon (when processing speed is fast enough) we’ll be able to talk not type, any accent, any amount of background noise, the day will hopefully be here very soon.

  39. Hi Darren,

    I have read of them somewhere else and been following them since I have a mild scoliosis about 10 years ago, but I still have to thank you and Lovelyn here. Taking off my hand from my mouse when not using is seldom that I do. I also learned a lot from the self message part.

    By the way, I have an off-topic question if you do not mind. Can I copy and paste a few sentences from your About Me page? I am now in the process of making a post the About Me page and I know yours can be a good example. I will include a link to it though.

    Hoping for your positive response.

    Keeping in touch.

    Angel Cuala
    aka Guardian Angel

  40. I’m glad you found the post useful.

    A couple of you mentioned that your get tingling in your arms and/or hands. That’s not something that you should ignore.

    Generally, if you experience pain or numbness and tingling, your body is trying to tell you that something’s wrong. Ignoring that message will cause you more problems in the long run.

    If you can’t afford to get massaged on a regular basis by a professional, self massage really helps. When I met my husband, he had tendinitis of the elbow so badly that he thought he’d have to give up being a musician. I taught him some self massage techniques and he cured himself. He’s also cured himself of the tension headaches he used to get.

    In the post, I gave some ideas about what you can do for self massage, but I believe in experimenting. Different techniques work for different people. Experiment and figure out what works best for you.

  41. So is this a real chair in the picture? If so what is its name or manufacturer?



  42. That is a sweet chair set up! It needs bigger speakers and a cup holder for my giant coffee mug, though! ;-)

    I have severe carpal tunnel and have to wear this wicked wrist brace all the time. If I don’t wear it, the pain and twitching comes back quickly. Even when I feel normal, like I could go without it, I need to wear it. It kinda sucks but that’s the price you pay if you’re doing this for a living.

  43. Make the time to work out. Lift weights, do a good cardio workout and swim laps on a regular basis.

    DO NOT become obsessed with blogging. Balance your life. See a therapist if that’s what it takes to get your life in proper balance.

    The best thing that I have ever done that helped me, was to get out and help others. Spend a weekend every month helping the homeless, for example. The life you save may be your own.

    Watch your weight. Too many people overeat. Excess weight will destroy your life and give you major health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and others.


    You need to make time for your FAMILY!
    DO NOT allow your passion for blogging to override your quality time spent with your FAMILY, especially if you are married and/or have kids you are parenting. If you let your blogging override your quality time spent with your family, your life WILL go straight downhill from there.

  45. Wow hubby and I both did this after drinking some wine and wow did the hadns feel better???? wow !!!!!!!

  46. I blogged you a post to help get over that jet lag you were suffering the other day.:)


  47. I find that getting up & moving around a bit is essential – it helps relieve my mind as well as my body. Even when I’m pssionate about a particular article and I’m half-way through it, my mind starts to wander and my eyes sometimes get tired. Taking a walk around the block, or running up and down the stairs a few times helps me get my focus back..

    Also – I AWLAYS recommend becomming the most proficent typer possible. If you can type your post in 20 minutes, rather than an hour, you’re going to save yourself LOADS of time in front of your computer!

  48. Excellent advice! These tips can make blogging painless.

    I have one tip that can really make you more productive and more comfortable when blogging. It’s called Voice Recognition Software. I use Naturally Speaking Dragon. This is software that converts your voice into text in Word or any word processing software. I have a headset that I wear and I sit comfortable in a recliner and dictate my blog posts. It has increased my productivity and reduced hand, arm and back pain. I love it! You talk and it writes.

  49. Thanks for the advice. It is very timely. I haven’t been taking good enough care of my body since beginning blogging. I just adjusted my monitor and my posture. Such simple things yet so helpful. Thanks for reminding me to stop every hour. I need to get in some regular exercise also. Thanks again for all the advice. :)

  50. I have had a bad back for about 4 years now, mostly due to improper weight lifting and high school football. It burndens me with most activities, but what surprised me was that even sitting down after an amount of time, it can start to cause me trouble. It got to the point where I would almost pass out from the pain. I’ve done some things to help alleviate this problem, but this list definitely will help! Thanks so much.

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