A year and a half ago, it started.
Pain in my back and neck. Pain in my wrists. Pain in my right arm, and pain in my shoulders.
There was no mystery as to what caused it. I did it to myself.
Hours and hours of sitting behind a computer. Hours and hours of recording, editing, and yes, blogging.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Even if you think you’ll be okay, I’m here to tell you that a sedentary life will catch up with you in the worst way. You’ll gain weight, you’ll lose your breath support, your eyesight will worsen, and carpal tunnel syndrome is just around the corner.
As with many things in life, if you don’t pay attention, you will pay with pain.
I treated the pain I was experiencing as an action signal to radically change the way I work and the environment I work in. Like yours, my recording space is small, so my solutions had to fit into that space.
SIT OR STAND?
My number one priority was to get off my behind and start moving. The first item on my shopping list was an UPLIFT standing desk converter that transforms any desk surface into an adjustable height workstation.
A pneumatic mechanism adjusts the height, and heavy counterbalances support the weight of my equipment. It comes with an attached keyboard tray that lowers below the desk surface for a more ergonomic keyboard height.
So, if anyone asks: Do you record sitting down or standing up, my answer is an emphatic “YES!”
The reason I didn’t I get a regular standing desk was simple. The converter had a much smaller footprint and fits perfectly into my 7 by 7 foot voice-over booth. This leaves me with little work space, but I’m fine with that because my operation is pretty much paperless.
By the way, when out of my chair I stand on a textured anti-fatigue mat which relieves pressure on the legs and feet.
CATCHING A MOUSE
Because I’m short on desk space there isn’t much room to maneuver a mouse. That’s where a trackball mouse comes in. The cursor is moved by the thumb (or index finger, depending on the device) while the mouse itself sits still on the mat. Bear in mind that people are different and hands are shaped differently. What may work for me may not work for you.
After extensive research and testing at places like Best Buy, I bought the Logitech MX Ergo Plus mouse. Logitech claims that this device delivers twenty percent less muscular strain compared to a regular mouse. It also features a unique adjustable hinge for personalized comfort which was a huge selling point to me.
The mouse itself is rather large and heavy and rests on a solid magnetic metal base. That base allows you to put it on a twenty percent tilt to make it a more natural fit to your hand. I bought the Best Buy edition which comes with a plastic platform, giving you a thirty percent angle. As soon as I started using this mouse, my wrist and arm felt tremendous relief.
The trackball is buttery smooth and its speed can be easily adjusted via the Logitech Options software. That software also controls the function of the eight buttons. One of those buttons controls the cursor speed. Pressing the button right next to the trackball will make the cursor slow down for precision placement which is very useful when editing.
The functions of all the buttons can be easily reprogrammed to fit the application you’re using, thus creating time-saving shortcuts. In other words, in the audio editor Twisted Wave I can make a button do one thing, and when I’m surfing the web I can make the same button do something else. That’s incredibly useful!
The only thing I don’t like about the MX Ergo is the scrolling wheel. It does what it needs to do (it even scrolls horizontally), but it feels and sounds cheap. For a premium mouse that costs anywhere between $80 and $100 this is almost unforgivable, though not a deal breaker.
AN ERGONOMIC KEYBOARD
Next on my quest for a more ergonomic office environment was a keyboard. Traditional keyboards never felt natural to my big hands and fingers. Part of the pain in my wrists, forearms, and shoulders came from typing. I needed to find something that would force me to place my hands in a position preventing ulnar and radial deviation.
Ulnar deviation, also known as ulnar flexion, is the movement of bending the wrist to the little finger, or ulnar bone, side. With the right hand this is the movement you use when hitting the Enter key. Radial deviation, a.k.a. radial flexion, is the movement of bending the wrist to the thumb, or radial bone, side.
I ended up getting the Kinesis Freestyle2 Convertible Keyboard. It’s a low-profile, 94 key keyboard that is divided into two separate halves connected by a cable. This modular design allows the user to move the two halves in order to place the keyboard in an optimal position. I also added an accessory kit allowing me to create adjustable lateral sloping or tenting of the keyboard modules at 5°, 10° or 15° (see picture). Similar to the MX Ergo mouse, this makes for a more personalized and comfortable fit.
EASY ON THE EYES
To complete the process of making my desk area healthier, I had to tackle one other thing: my eyesight. Staring at a computer monitor or television screen all day long creates eye fatigue. It’s the type of eye strain that can give you headaches and dry, scratchy eyes.
One way to prevent that is to use bias lighting by putting a light source behind your TV or monitor. Doing that raises the average ambient light in the room and reduces the strain on your eyes, meaning you can watch television or work for longer without all the negative side effects.
Online you can buy a wide variety of kits for bias lighting, and many can be plugged into a USB slot and are dimmable. I have installed an LED strip behind our 55″ TV, as well as one behind my studio desk. My eyes are much happier now, and so is the rest of my body. Every little bit of change adds up.
Before I end this blog post, I’d like to do something I’ve never done before: give you a quick tour of the Nethervoice studio:
As I said before, what works for me may not work for you. We’re all built differently and we may have different needs. However, don’t wait to make adjustments until you’re in pain. If you ignore the signals, they will only get worse. It will probably require a substantial investment, but what’s the alternative?
Also, remember that adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet make a huge difference. You’re used to taking care of others. You can’t do that properly if you don’t take care of yourself.
Move more, eat less, stay hydrated, and have a positive attitude. You’ve heard it all before, but this time, make today the day you implement some meaningful changes in your life.
Your mind and body will thank you!
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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