Does Writing Give You a Pain in the Neck?

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By Patricia Bradley

Did you know that writers as a group have more shoulder and neck pain than the average person? Is it any wonder why? We spend hours and hours sitting at a computer, staring at a blinking cursor. And not only do all those hours affect our neck and shoulder muscles, they add extra padding where we don’t need it.

Several years ago, burning pain under my shoulder blade and through my neck resulted in a visit to an orthopedic doctor who sent me to a physical therapist. And because the exercises the PT gave me stopped the pain in shoulders and allowed me to get back to writing, I’d like to share a few of them with the writers here at ACFW. And gasp! I’m going to use myself as a model.

Before I continue, I am not a physical therapist or a physician, and if you have any doubts about doing exercises, consult your doctor.

The first exercise is a stretching exercise for the neck. Sit in a chair, (can be your office chair) and place one hand on top of your head and the other behind your back. Make sure you are sitting tall.
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Disregard all the kitty toys in the floor and the flower coming out of my head.

Next, pull your head over like you were trying to smell under your arm. ? Hold this stretch for a count of 20. Be sure to focus on letting those muscle relax. Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait.
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Doesn’t that feel good!

Now do the same thing for the other side. I do ten of these every morning after I get out of bed.

This is after I’ve stretched my hamstrings (before getting up). If you have tight hamstrings, you probably have back pain. Tight hamstrings = shorten muscles that support your back. And this can cause pain.
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The next exercises I do are head turns and shoulder rolls. For the head turns, I sit straight, and look as far as I can to the left for a count of 10. If I’m looking to the left, I put my right arm behind my back. This gives more stretch. Then I look forward and press my finger to my chin, pushing it in and stretching my neck. I hold this for a count of 10. Repeat this series for at least five reps.

The shoulder rolls are just that. Rolling your shoulders, first one way, then another.

When I started these exercises, I set a timer and did them about every 4 hours. Now I only do them first thing in the morning. And another use for that timer—when you are writing, set it to alarm every so often, and when it goes off, stop and do a few shoulder rolls and head turns, and then get up and walk around.

Setting that clock for sixty minutes is probably the hardest thing for me—I hate to stop in the middle of a scene and stretch. But if I don’t, when I do get up my neck, shoulders, back, and knees let me know I should have stopped earlier.

I really want to encourage anyone who sits at a desk all day to find some type of stretching exercise. These just happen to be the ones that have helped me to stay pain freer…if that’s a word.

At my age, pain and I are old friends. But I believe in exercise. I was facing knee replacement surgery earlier this year, but since I’ve been doing a 150 leg lifts with 10 pound weights on each leg, the muscles above the knee are doing their job and surgery has been cancelled.

What exercises do you do to feel better?

Pat BradleyPatricia Bradley lives in North Mississippi, and when she’s not writing murder, she’s either knitting or throwing mud on a wheel. Her workshops on writing include online courses with American Christian Fiction Writers and workshops at the Mid-South Christian Writer’s Conference. Email her at

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