Four years ago, when I turned 40, I threw my back.
Happy birthday, me.
Jason and I were away for three nights without the kids. It would have been blissful. Except I couldn’t stand up straight. I looked like my father, and many other Ludwigs I have known, who walk with a certain tilt of the spine, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It hurt so much to walk long distances that we had to get a wheelchair to take me from the plane to the luggage carousal once we arrived home. I was a walking (or non-walking) cliché of getting old. I wanted no part of it.
My friend, who’s had back problems forever, gave me the name of her chiropractor. He gave me the most unromantic diagnosis ever: you sit too much.
“Really. How could that possibly be? I mean, I’m a writer.”
I have an incredible attention span. I can sit at my desk and stare out my window for hours. I mean write. But the point is, I can sit for ages without realizing how much time has gone by. And that’s exactly how I developed my work-related injury. Unfortunately, my office does not include a workers’ compensation board…
When I asked the chiropractor what chair he would recommend, he said, “None.”
“But I’m a writer.”
“You need to move as much as possible,” he said.
Yeah, did I mention I’m a writer?
But I wasn’t going to give up. I did not want to become the Leaning Tower of Sidura! Another friend of mine helped me understand how I could incorporate movement into my day. Tracy is a Movement Specialist. She’s studied Katy Bowman’s work on nutritious movement and helped me understand which areas of my body are underworked because of all my sitting.
She encouraged me to develop a dynamic working space. So now, instead of a desk chair, I have an L-shaped desk with a standing desk, a kneeling chair (for when I do want to sit) and (my favourite) a beanbag chair to get me working close to the floor. Writing in the beanbag chair forces me to get up and down a lot during the day because I’m always forgetting something. And getting up and down from basically a squat position works your gluteal (tushy) muscles, instead of your quads (front thighs). I make a point of listening to my body and changing positions often when I work. I stretch. And my dog is my best excuse for getting me away from my desk and outside for some fresh air.
I’ve had a few other back moments (did you know you could sprain a joint in your spine? From putting on TIGHTS??), but I’m mostly on top of it. When I’m not house-bound by COVID, I take karate classes a couple of times a week. Right now, I’m working out at home with weights and getting out twice a day for walks. I feel it when I haven’t been moving enough and I’m getting better at listening to what my body needs.
Besides, if I ever do throw my back again, I’d rather say it was from sparring, then from writing a novel.