Being healthy has always been important to me. I try to eat well and exercise regularly, I don’t smoke and I limit the red wine (honestly), so I always thought I was doing ok health wise.
I wish I had paid attention to the way that I used my desktop, laptop and phone, as they ended up causing me so much pain that I was off work for almost two years.
It started with an ache in my right hand and wrist. The pain would disappear overnight, so I never worried too much about it. I assumed it just went with the job.
Then it spread from my hand and wrist into my forearms, shoulders, neck and back. It tingled, throbbed and burned, moving from one spot to another. It made my forearms feel like dead weights, at times too heavy to lift long enough to wash my hair. And it stopped disappearing after a night’s sleep.
One evening I sat down to dinner and couldn’t get my fingers to close around a fork. That’s when I finally admitted to myself that my pain was out of control.
I consulted with a long list of doctors, specialists and other health care practitioners. Consensus led to ‘repetitive strain injury’, an umbrella term for musculoskeletal injuries caused by the wear and tear on the body from years of performing repetitive tasks – think typing, tapping, and scrolling – combined with poor workstation set up and use.
I followed all of their suggestions and underwent all of their treatments at great cost and with fleeting success. Every time I started to feel better, I went back to my beloved laptop and phone. And every time I did, the pain came back.
After two years of trying to get rid of the pain, I had my lightbulb moment. I needed to change my behaviour and not go back to using my digital devices in the same way.
I started by getting my qualification in display screen equipment (DSE) risk assessment with the British Safety Council and I began to study the Alexander Technique to learn how to use my body in a safer, healthier way.
I’ve taken what I’ve learned and set up Safe Hands DSE to teach others how to protect themselves. Using a combination of easy ergonomic adjustments and mindfulness about how the body is used, I show people how to minimise strain and tension which can lead to aches and pains.
I explain how to work safe anywhere, eg, work, home, commuting, and with any digital device, eg, smartphone, laptop, tablet, and desktop computer. Then I offer ideas for integrating more movement and more digital downtime into the day.
I want to empower digital device users with the information they need to keep themselves pain free. We shouldn’t need weekly physio to enable us to work; what we need is sustainable healthy behaviour when it comes to digital device use. It’s as important as eating well and exercising regularly.