Health Problems are a Write-Off

Health Problems are a Write-Off

After spending the first warm day in weeks at the park with my camera, I was surprised to find my back and knees aching by the time I got home. That annoyed me, because I didn’t think I was doing anything particularly strenuous, so yesterday when I went to the library I picked up some books on natural healing for arthritis (which the doctor says I probably have in my knees). One of the books, The Arthritis Foundation’s guide to Alternative Therapies, has a fascinating summary of many “complementary therapies” (in the text, they usually don’t use the term “alternative” because they want people to use traditional western medical procedures as their main therapy), including Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Biofeedback and Tai Chi. I have heard about these, but never really knew what the origins or philosophies were, so this was quite interesting.

One of the side bars shown in the “Mind, Body and Spirit” chapter is entitled “Helping Your Arthritis with the Write Stuff”. It tells about a study which has found that writing about stressful experiences improved the health of people with mild to moderately severe rheumatoid arthritis or asthma. “Rheumatoid arthritis patients in the study averaged a 28 percent decrease in overall disease symptoms. Their asthma counterparts had a 19 percent decrease (Smyth).” The participants were asked to write continuously for 20 minutes, three days in a row. Some were asked to write about the most stressful experience they ever had; others about their plans for the day. The second group showed little change in their health.

The authors also mention that other studies have shown that people who express their emotions in writing improve their health, and improve their immune system. Many find relief from their health problems by keeping a journal, or writing letters that they don’t intend to send.

I browsed around the websites listed as resources and found interesting information in both. In the second resource are additional helps such as the Journal Café, poem of the day, journal writing prompts, and information about online journal writing classes. The websites are listed below.

Intensive Journal Program, New York, New York http://www.intensivejournal.org
Center for Journal Therapy, Lakewood, Colorado, http://www.journaltherapy.com

Since it initiated this whole topic, I figured I’d also feature a photo from the trip to the park!

Sitting–the new smoking?

A recent article in the newspaper announced that, according to researchers, sitting is the new smoking? Huh? The sub-title explains: “Sedentary behavior raises health risks.” And don’t I know it! (Although I do think the health risks from smoking far outweigh those from sitting.) I am writing this while standing, and hope that my knees and back appreciate it. Let me tell you my experiences with a sedentary lifestyle, something that is typical of us writers.

In spring of 2008 I started a new job which requires me to sit at a computer all day. Mostly a paperless office, I don’t have too many reasons to leave the keyboard to find hard copies of documents, and even communication within the office is frequently done by email and instant message. On top of that, the job is fast-paced and often high-pressured. Yet I did consistently take a thirty minute walk every day at lunch time.

In the spring of 2009, after noticing that in certain rare movements my left upper arm and shoulder were quite painful, I was diagnosed with “frozen shoulder”. The details of the therapy for that problem are another story. Anyway, one day in the fall the frozenness of the joint started to thaw, and I gradually regained complete use of that arm and shoulder.

Early in 2010 I was dealing with sore wrists and a painful right arm, just inside my elbow. The therapist said I didn’t have carpal tunnel, but I did have tennis elbow in both elbows. No fair! I hadn’t even been playing tennis across the street because the weather was so bad, and now that the snow was finally melting, I still wouldn’t get to play! The therapist also explained to me that if your muscles are constantly in one position most of the time (and mine were, at work and at home), those muscles and ligaments that are not being used actually shorten. So I started paying a lot of attention to stretching my wrists, fingers and arms, and walking away from the computer for breaks.

Later in 2010 I got a sudden sharp pain in my knee out of the blue, just walking from one room to another. It went away as fast as it came, but returned now and then for short periods of time. For weeks it was merely a curiosity, but one day I had to leave work from the pain. X-rays showed a build-up of cartilage. Yes, I know I’m aging and I’m falling apart. But this was yet another voice from my body telling me to make some changes. So I negotiated with my company and started taking one day off per week, and now I take off two days a week. I supplement my income in non-sitting jobs (as much as possible). When I am sitting, I have some wonderful Outlook tasks that pop up and tell me to stretch, so I now take more breaks (and longer breaks) to stand and stretch and walk around the office. Here is a wonderful website (coincidentally, the website’s main function is to feature books) that has stretches you can do at work. The sheet on Desk Stretches is my favorite.

Maybe this will be helpful to you. I hope so!