The equivalent of that most modern of troubles, iPad neck, must have been plaguing workers for goodness knows how many generations, only under different or no names. The trouble is, when we are in the zone of whatever it is we do, we tend to hold ourselves in unnatural positions for long periods of time, making small gestures with our hands and arms. I imagine the flint knapper, 30,000 years ago, gently tapping away to create a cutting edge, probably suffered something similar. But I haven't seen the archeological evidence.
Dickensian clerks, bent over their ledgers, had the advantage of high chairs and tilted desks, which may have helped their necks. When working for a US company in 2002, I first came across health and safety, and having my desk set up properly. The seat at the correct tilt and height, and the desktop computer, with separate keypad and monitor raised to align with the eyes, was a much healthier proposition than the laptop, and now the iPad.
I injured my back in an accident a while ago. Years went by without thinking about it, with only intermittent stress related spasm of the back muscles. I have always written for a living - anything I was asked to write, from advertising straplines to whole novels, via websites and articles. Only the tools I use to get my ideas out there have changed - from typewriters, to word processors, desktops to laptops and beyond.
The problem seems to be that with the 'improvement' of the tools, comes acceleration of the demands on my mind and body. I must work harder and faster all the time, and pushed into new mental and physical postures just to keep up.
My back began its niggling protest once again a few years ago. From intermittent discomfort, I found I was constantly aware of the area between my shoulderblades and quite often in actual pain. I woke up on many mornings with a headache, unrelated to wine consumption, and was often uncomfortable when writing. You work through it though, don't you? I did. Needs must.
Finally, with a big challenge just around the corner, and the fear that I simply would not be physically up to it, I consulted Dr Kochhar, the shoulder doctor. His 360 degree approach to this all-to-common problem is designed to stop the pain once and for all. He brings on the cavalry, in the form of physiotherapy, pain relief, even counselling if the problem merits it. Like a conductor, he aims to orchestrate a detailed process that is bespoke for every patient.
When I suggested to him that it was 'an old injury' - he took a reassuringly no-nonsense approach. 'If you damaged some tissue - even if you broke a bone - the tissue should recover fully,' he said. Clearly I should no longer be feeling like this, and needed some further treatment to knock it on the head. It is much more likely that the various postures I adopt on a laptop - in spite of knowing full well how to adjust my workstation for full comfort with a desk top - are causing me a possibly ancient, but definitely 21st-century problem: iPad neck.
To begin with I am seeing the physiotherapist, and the pain doctor. I will report back on my progress. I am writing this guiltily in bed on my laptop. One thing I dread is being told not to do this ever again. My desktop is downstairs, gently gathering dust....
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