This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Garzon-Jones, a Licensed Massage Therapist and Instructor who has over ten years of experience in working with patients.
I asked Susan what kinds of health risks are often associated with writers/people who spend long hours in front of the computer.
Susan: People who spend long hours in front of their computer, tend to have posture issues that can lead to burning and aching in primarily the neck, shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand muscles, from overuse. This can also affect the lower back and hip muscles. If these muscles become excessively tight due to overuse the result can be compression to nerves, blood and lymphatic vessels. When these vessels are compressed it can cause numbness, tingling, and a lack of blood flow to the muscles. This, in turn, causes the muscles to hurt, as pain radiates up and down the neck and arm to the wrist and hand. This can also cause tension headaches.In the lower back and hips it can cause numbness and tingling down the legs and pain in the lower back and front of the hips. Common diagnosis for these conditions are: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Siatica or Piriformis Syndrome, as well as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
Writers often rely on that sudden burst of inspiration that puts them “in the zone”. Sometimes, being in the zone means spending hours upon hours sitting down to type. Though we don’t want to lose our inspiration, to avoid potential health risks, how often would you suggest we take breaks while typing a story?
Susan: Taking breaks is a good idea. As far as the time goes it’s good to take them as often as possible, as long as you get them in they will help to give those muscles a break. A good gauge would be when you start to feel slight burning in your muscles. This signifies that your muscles are tired from being in the same position and that, for a little bit, you need to switch up your movements. Doing this may also have the added bonus of helping you to process your ideas better.
What kinds of stretching exercises are good for writers who are glued to their computers?
Susan: While stretching exercises are great, you also want to move your muscles to get them working more organically than they are when you’re in the same position for long periods of time. A good example is to go for a walk. Some other good exercises would be shoulder circles, neck rotations, squats or lunges among others. I personally love the P90X moving through the green jello exercise where you create tension in all your shoulder to finger muscles and imagine you are pulling yourself through jello. As massage therapists also use a lot of the same muscles that writers do we have similar problems and I have personally found these exercises to be helpful. It can take maybe 5 to 10 min to do one set of all of these exercises and would be great to do during your break.
If a writer decides to consult with a massage therapist, what kind of massage do you suggest they specifically request?
Susan: Well, each person is different when it comes to what their bodies can take, as well as their desired end result. If the goal is to relax and you don't like deep pressure then a Swedish massage, which is a lighter touch massage that has as its main focus to relax you and increase your circulation, would be a good choice. If you like firm or deep pressure but still want to relax a deep tissue massage which gets deeper into the muscles while at the same time allows you to relax would be a good choice. If you are looking for pain relief for a condition that is hindering your work, like if you already have carpal tunnel or any of the other aforementioned conditions or are experiencing numbness or tingling sensations due to muscle tension then Neuro Muscular therapy would be your best choice as the therapist will spend their time focused on the problem areas to bring relief, and help restore normal function. If you don't feel comfortable taking off your clothes, and have a hard time stretching on your own Thai massage may be for you. This style combines yoga-like stretches with compressions to help increase circulation and improve flexibility, all while you comfortably lay fully clothed on a mat and your therapist does all the work. If none of these seem like a good fit you can consult with a massage therapist about the many other technique styles that may be better suited for you.
I know Susan is also an avid reader, so I asked her what one of her all-time favorite books is…
Susan: I’m not much of a fiction reader as when I read it’s usually text books or biographies. But, the best novel I’ve read is actually based on a true story, so best of both worlds for me- I Never Promised You A Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg. It’s about a young girls struggle with mental illness. One other favorite book of mine is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, I like the journalistic nature of this true story.
Thanks for stopping by and a big thank you to Susan for the helpful tips!