If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I have many issues with back pain. I have a herniated disc in my spine, and it is causing pain and loss of mobility. It is not easy to be a writer with back problems, especially when dealing with a full-time job that can be quite physical. I find myself incapable of writing sometimes, and it gets worse when I’m stressed. Today I’m going to talk about some solutions that I have found for my back, and some strategies that I use to cope with the mental strain that it creates.
How does back pain start?
I’m only 32 and I have been living with back problems for seven years. I am not sure what created it in the first place, but I remember the first time I was such in pain that I couldn’t move. I was trying to finish my fanfiction Eternal Snow and I had to stop writing for a month after an injury that I got practising Krav Maga (a combat sport). The injury didn’t create the disk problem, but it made it worse. I went through a lot of tests: X-Ray, MRI, physiotherapist, osteopath to try to determine what exactly had happened. It turned out that my spine was in bad shape probably since childhood, and the sport injury only revealed it.
Since then, I’ve suffered from episodes of sharp pain and restricted mobility. I am a lucky because most of the time I’m fine. However, on some days (like this week) I can barely move. I have also developed sciatica, which is a consequence of the disk problem. It’s less painful but more annoying because it doesn’t go away.
What are my solutions?
Over the years I have tried different solutions to get better. Improving my posture while I sleep was the first one. I have a good mattress, a pillow that is thick enough, and another pillow that I place between my legs. The last one allows my spine to be correctly aligned while I sleep on the side.
I also practice stretching and core strengthening exercises every morning. It is a discipline that is difficult to maintain, but it is what gave me the best results long-term. I used this video to give me ideas at first, and you can find more of them on YouTube:
I go regularly to the chiropractor, but it is quite expensive so it might not be available for everyone. I have also started yoga recently, and I have seen an improvement. However, I haven’t been doing it for long enough to know if it is worth it.
Finally, I also practice meditation. I’m not good at it, but I try. It helps me deal with the pain, and helps with the anxiety when I can’t write. In the future, I plan on using more relaxation techniques on my back. Since stress makes it worse, I want to address that.
What about writing?
I have changed my desk at home for a more ergonomic one. I don’t type directly on my laptop anymore: I have a separate keyboard and a separate mouse. My laptop screen is raised so I don’t move my neck. It is good, but I still feel stiff after a while so I am considering using a standing desk. I am now also considering using a dictation software to help me. Actually, this whole blog post is dictated using Scrivener and the Mac dictation tool! (FYI it took ages because the tool struggled with my accent, so I’m not convinced yet!)
Being a creative with a disabling physical problem is difficult. This week I felt really discouraged, and I haven’t really been in the mood for writing. On Twitter, other authors have shared with me stories of writing with conditions that are more difficult than mine. I think the common thread here is how it can impact not only your body but also your mind. It is an extra obstacle that a lot of authors don’t have to deal with, and it really feels unfair.
There’s no magic solution here, but I think it is even more important in this case to do a little bit every day. When I’m really in pain, I give myself the goal to write 15 minutes. It’s not much but it is enough to keep me happy on those days where everything else is painful.
Do you have back issues too? Do you have tips? Don’t hesitate to share them!