Some while back I was editing a book involving ergonomics, and a few things came to mind that might be useful. Especially the overall concept that you can either arrange your environment to meet the needs of your body or twist your body to meet the needs of your environment.

I've worked on several similar ergonomic projects and can still recall editing material and reading that I wasn't sitting right, wasn’t reading right, wasn’t typing right. Then Mary, my wife, was helping me proof some copy and she'd gotten into bed in her PJs and started reading how she wasn't sitting up right when in bed—all of this suggesting that the writer's, editor's, proofer's life can be a tough one, as many of us undoubtedly know.  

Not least, and one thing that can make a significant difference regarding back problems (which in turn can contribute to headaches)—kind of the coup de gras (though not all that merciful)—was when I started reading about… pillows.

Talk about an antidote to hubris!  You may think you've been around, that you know a  thing or two, have done a few things.... But then, suddenly,  I realized. Wow!  I'm getting to be an old guy. I’ve traveled in many  countries—in North, Central and South America, in Eastern and Western Europe. Been published in various places. Authored/co-authored several books. Edited others. Been a reporter here. An editor there— but, wait a minute, the thought struck. You don't even know how to sleep on a…pillow! 

And so, it turns out, if your pillow is too fat it pushes your head up and can get your whole body out of alignment. Serious stuff!   

Let's face it, there are all these dangers a writer faces! And many or most lurking as nearby as your bed or your computer. It's not by accident that probably more writers have back problems than construction workers, firemen, or police. And no doubt you can attribute a good deal of these problems to writers leaning forward while typing— and stretching the lower back. Simply put, this causes back problems and tension and, not infrequently, headaches.

One way to counteract or mitigate this problem is to have a little foot stand—even a fat dictionary or two) to raise at least one foot a little. It really makes a difference. And there are other things you can do to deal with this lower back problem.  Watch your smart cat, the way it humps and arches its back. I do the same thing, leaning into and against the wall (arching my back) during the morning shower and then pushing myself back off the wall (humping my back); and it doesn't hurt (and feels pretty good) to have a stream of hot water on your back when you're doing this.  

Of course there are other things involving our posture that contribute to headaches, and one significant factor is looking upward too much or down too much while typing and viewing the computer screen. This problem can be exacerbated even more than usual if, as I do, you use a monitor that rotates to either a vertical or horizontal position. In the vertical position you might be looking at the equivalent of several pages on the screen.

It's easy enough to put a fat book or two under a monitor so as to raise it. And easy enough—if you remember—to scroll the copy that you're working on so that it's closer to eye level. And especially, I think, you don't want to look up too high, scrunching your lower neck as you do so. Another relevant factor, of course, is adjusting your seat level so that you're more likely to be looking eye-level at whatever you're dealing with on the screen. And an outrageously expensive ergonomic chair, even if the name sounds silly, can make a big difference. Of course, if you’re old enough, you might well remember buying a car as a teenager, or any number, for a lot less than what you paid for your latest office chair. Pretty shocking, though a bad chair might do more damage to your back than a fender bumper.  

And one of the most important things that encourages us to move forward toward the screen, stretching our back, indeed involves our eyesight.  Eye problems alone can  and do contribute to headaches. But perhaps equally significant, one might be pushing one's head closer to see the copy better. In which case you might need reading glasses, or an upgrade of your reading glasses. Or, perhaps easier, you might just push the computer screen closer to you (without it being so close, of course, that the proximity gives you a headache.)  Another thing you might do—Mary thought of this one—measure the most comfortable distance for reading and the approximate  number of inches from eyeball to screen at eye level and then be sure and take this information with you when you next get fitted at the eye doctor's for reading glasses, announces:  "I want reading glasses that work well at a distance of eighteen inches," or whatever.

Not least—use an alarm clock if necessary—get up at frequent intervals and walk around a little and stretch; especially your shoulders, pushing your shoulder blades in toward each other and then away from each other.

Not inconceivably it could make a difference by resetting the intensity or sharpness of your monitor, and perhaps selecting different background colors, too. And perhaps even you need a new monitor.  But first try looking at the screen more at eye level and thus scrunching or stretching your neck less, and try raising one foot so as to stretch the lower back less.

I presume you know that if you are working in, say, Word, you can click on View and then go to the zoom and set the type to any size that's comfortable for you.

I'm reminded here of a news announcer in Los Angeles years ago who always struck me as suffering from incredible pomposity, apparently sticking his chin forward every time he was making what he thought an important  point. And then one day I realized— Hey, the guy is pushing forward to get a better look at the cue cards.  

So imagine your computer monitor is like one of those morning mirrors in an ad on television when— eek— suddenly some stranger is looking right at you eyeball to eyeball. Just keep that in mind. You wouldn't want a complete stranger to think you were pompous. Nor would you want to pick a fight by appearing overly aggressive, would you, as you jutted your chin up to the screen. :-)

And of course, when worse comes to worse, you could always take a Tylenol.

By Ron Kenner — How to Beat 'Writer's headache' — Simple, Just Make Yourself Comfortable
www.RKedit.com