Health Hacks for Computer Workers

I spend a lot of time on the computer, which was fine until I hit my mid 30s. And then I started to suffer from pain in my arms, and random back spasms.

That’s when I learned that sitting down is bad for your health (in fact, sitting for 5 hours is as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes). 20 years of frequent sitting was taking its toll.

After much experimentation, I’ve found ways to avoid these problems. Hopefully, by sharing my solutions, I can help some of you avoid these issues.

Tip 1: Sit/Stand Treadmill Desk

The most effective (and most expensive) change was getting a sit/stand treadmill desk.

I ordered an 80″ wide LifeSpan desk with a TR1200 treadmill (see http://www.thehumansolution.com/uplift-lifespan-treadmill-desk.html).

I chose the widest model because sometimes I’m tired of walking and just want to sit.  So I keep a chair next to the treadmill, and move the monitor/keyboard from one side of the desk to the other.

My setup

My setup

So now I walk 5 or 6 miles every day.  More than anything, this change has mitigated health issues, while also increasing my overall energy.

The cost was $2600, which I consider some of the best money I’ve ever spent.

Tip 2: The Gokhale Method for a Pain-Free Back

I had dozens of chiropractor visits, and started practicing yoga a few times a week.  None of that seemed to help.

Then I bought 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back.  The book’s basic premise is that back pain is mostly a symptom of bad posture, and is rare in developing countries where people don’t sit all day long.

From the book: “Notice that his shoulders are aligned toward the back of his torso; his neck is elongated without much curvature and, as a result, his chin angles down; his belt is lower in front than in back, reflecting a pelvis that is tipped forward and a sacrum that is angled back; his chest is “open”; his breast bone is more horizontal than vertical; and his rib cage is flush with the contour of his torso. Even though he works on a low table for much of the day, he does not stoop forward or hunch his shoulders at all”. Free image courtesy of www.egwellness.com

What I like about focusing on posture, is you can always be working on it.  With back-strengthening exercises, you have to find time to do them.  But you’re always standing, or sitting, or walking, or lying down.

After reading this book, I got rid of my fancy Aeron chair (which tries to mold your back into a C shape), and bought the ugly-but-functional Gokhale chair ($560).

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Tip 3: Trigger-point Massage

Sometimes, your best efforts at prevention don’t work, and you need a cure. A couple years ago, I had pain in my right arm that just didn’t go away.

I went to doctors and physical therapists. I tried acupuncture, took various vitamins. None of it worked.

I stopped using a computer, thinking rest would fix my arm. But it didn’t, not even after over a month of not working.

Finally, I discovered the book It’s Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!: RSI Theory and Therapy for Computer Professionals, which explains how wear and tear can accumulate in the human body. Sometimes, nerves get snagged by knots of tissue. What’s tricky is that, when this happens, you will feel pain somewhere other than the source of the problem.

Once I identified the type of therapy I needed (which goes by “trigger point massage” or “myofascial release”), I was fine after a few sessions.

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