Thursday, August 02, 2007

Warning: Dissertating Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Since Supadiscomama asked in a comment to my post on my neck injury, I thought I'd take a minute to explain, especially since several other readers are fellow dissertators. As it turns out, dissertating is hazardous to your health. Seriously. How? Well, here's how the chiropractor explained it to me:

When one is studying at a desk, looking down at a book - presumably reading, highlighting, taking notes, etc. - the muscles in the neck and shoulder area are strained for unusually extended amounts of time. Over time, this can cause them to spasm, which is what most of us feel as a "stiff neck." As I personally found out, it can get much worse, and the pain is nothing short of debilitating. And, since we all know that dissertating takes place over a looooong amount of time, this is a real concern for graduate students at this stage. Adding to the already bad situation is the fact that many of us who work in an office on campus are sitting in the crappiest chairs in the world. They are basically whatever the hell the department had laying around and then decided to throw it in our office. They are most definitely NOT ergonomic chairs, made to fit each individual's unique body (no accounting for differences in height, weight, etc.). As an example, I'm 6'2" while one of my officemates is 5'2". We simply cannot comfortably use the same damn chair! This situation constituted part of my recent neck injury.

The other part: bad workout practice. I use a treadmill in warming up for my workout on weights. I do brisk walking, sometimes light jogging, on the treadmill for 30 minutes. Recently, to further help the impact on the booty area, I decided to add the incline feature. Not a little mind you....nooooo, not me... I shot the incline up 5%. I actually thought this wasn't much, but the chiropractor explained that this is the equivalent of trying to climb uphill with a bowling ball on your shoulders (your head weighs about the same amount as a bowling ball). This, my friends, did make sense to me. She advised that if I want a better workout for my booty, then I should hop on the stair machine or do short bursts of sprinting.

So there you have it: the Official Diagnosis for Injury. The Official Solution? Two things:

1 - She suggested a local store (though I'm sure there are others in other locations) where you can find used ergonomic chairs and office furniture for 50% less than usual cost, so I'll be investing in one of those babies as soon as the fall financial aid comes in. It will still cost about $200-$300, but I'm going to be doing this whole academic researching & writing thing for a while, so I consider it an investment.

2 - A book stand. The premier version seems to be this one, but I'll probably look around some more before making a final decision and purchase. These place your book higher, closer to eye level, and can be adjust depending on the size and height of the book. Again, $80 isn't cheap, but after talking with several faculty members (who also frequent the chiropractor's office), it seems that this is another worthwhile investment for my health.

Any experience others have had with similar purchases would be lovely to hear about since I haven't yet figured out what the best brands, styles, etc. are.


wwwmama said...

Hey, that's pretty cool. I want one of those book holders. I only have a small folding one I take with me when I am working on my laptop. I do think the chair is a great investment too. I wish I could afford a good one.

Stewgad said...

The physical therapists scolded me when I had neck and shoulder pain a couple of years ago for working on the laptop and suggested that I get an external keyboard, mouse, and laptop stand. Here's what I used:

So, you may think about your computing situation as well. It can make a big difference in neck angles as well.

Lisa Dunick said...

Oh man--and I thought that the only hazard to dissertating was the way it consistently undercuts your self-esteem. Uf.

AcadeMama said...

stewgad: thanks for the link! this kind of prodcut will be great once we actually *get* a laptop pc...oh when will the money gods let the bills start raining down?? :)