Blogging Is A Pain In The ………

I’ll bet you though that I was about to say that blogging is a pain in the ass. It’s not – although it does have its moments. No, in my case, blogging is actually a pain in the back. Here’s what I mean.

I’m normally on a computer by 7 AM every day, and generally, I’m computing until at least 11 PM. Part of that time, about 4 hours or so, is set aside for managing this blog – developing and writing new articles; responding to comments, and so on. Somewhere in those hours, I take time for lunch and dinner.

But, in April of this year, I finally paid the price for all the mistakes I’ve made, over the years, while sitting at a computer keyboard. Mistakes, that taken one at a time, don’t seem that serious. But, an accumulation of these mistakes can be physically costly.

The personal price I paid for these accumulated errors was back pain so severe, that even morphine did little to reduce the agony, and I do mean agony. I fact, even though it’s been months now, I’m still in constant pain – though it’s manageable without medication.

My doctor’s advice?  Accept the pain and reduced ability as an ongoing fact of life, or consider surgery. Back surgery is the only real alternative I think, and I’ve scheduled it for early in the Fall.

You might wonder why I’m relating this story to you, and you might even be thinking – that will never happen to me. Oh no?

The type of mistakes that I made are the type of mistakes that virtually all computer users make, including:

Slouching, rather than sitting upright (This used to be my favorite position).

Barely moving.

Incorrect screen height, or positioning.

Poor keyboard placement.

NOT taking breaks away from the keyboard. (I was totally guilty of this one).

So, I’ve had to learn to implement certain strategies to manage this back pain while I’m on a computer. The most important one being – getting up out of my chair (a very good chair, by the way), and walking away from the computer at regular intervals.

To prompt me to do this I use Workrave, an open source (free), application that assists in the recovery and prevention of RSI – Repetitive Strain Injury. The program frequently alerts me to take micro-pauses, longer rest breaks, and restricts me to my daily computing limit – still a high limit mind you.

One of the more impressive features of this application is a set of onscreen exercises that you can use to help you heal injuries, or as in my case, prevent future injuries – I hope!

The following screen shots illustrate just two of the exercises.



Application setup goes relatively smoothly since the user interface is “follow the bouncing ball” simple.


While taking this screen capture, as you can see, I was prompted to take a micro- break as per my schedule. I postponed this break, by the way.


By using Workrave’s networking feature you give everyone on the network an opportunity to relax, or exercise on a scheduled basis. A neat feature, I thought.

If you want to prevent injury, or other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer, or you need a reminder to take a break for any reason, Workrave could be just the right tool to help you do this.

If you’re a Geek, then you REALLY need this tool. 🙂

System requirements: Windows or GNU/Linux.

Download at: Workrave

Additional resources:

Computer terminal work and the benefits of microbreaks

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Living Life, Networking, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

32 responses to “Blogging Is A Pain In The ………

  1. Hey Bill,

    Sorry to hear about your back problems. I slipped a disk way back in my twenties and I still have to be careful with my posture and how I move my body. When I don’t think about what I’m doing, I pay the price. Luckily I didn’t need surgery but I did work with a guy who had the surgery to fuse a couple of disks, and it changed his life. Good luck with it.

    Best Wishes


    • Hey Paul,

      “When I don’t think about what I’m doing, I pay the price.” – man, do I hear ya! So, you know how debilitating this type of thing can be.

      When this happened, even on a heavy dose of Morphine, I couldn’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time and then, I had to get up. I though I knew something about pain but this was just intolerable. When the Morphine wouldn’t handle it, I knew I was in big trouble. I’ve heard stories where cancer patients have pain that’s so intense that no medication will stop it, and this experience was just like that. Not Morphine injections; not Morphine pills.

      The cause of all this was a disk, that instead of slipping out, slipped in, and crushed the main spinal nerve. According to the docs, a very unusual situation and so, the unusual intensity of the pain.

      I wouldn’t wish this on any but a few enemies – one’s that I have a particularly fierce dislike for. 🙂

      Have a great weekend.



  2. Liam O' Moulain

    Wow Bill. Sounds like you really went through it.

    I think I need to look at my own habits after reading this.


    • Hey Liam,

      Most of us, most of the time, don’t think about our posture while sitting at a keyboard. I’m a perfect example of that. And, a perfect example of what can happen.

      Good to hear from you.


  3. I’ve been there with the back pain, while doing something totally different (running a chain saw on a steep hillside)so I totally sympathize. I use computers for enjoyment and information and almost not at all at my job. Sitting for that length of time is really tough on the body, I’m glad to see you’ve implemented a strategy to maintain your health.
    Good luck with your back, and thanks for all your dedication to your readers and your blog. We all benefit a great deal from your investment in time, and appreciate your effort.

    • Hey Mark,

      I hurt my back sitting down – you hurt your back running a chain saw on a steep hillside! OK, who’s the tough guy in this story. lol

      Just recently, I saw an item on the News about how unhealthy it is to sit for even short periods of time. I was shocked watching this news item, but it definitely fit in with my own experience. Thanks for the kind words btw, much appreciated.

      Have a safe 4th.



  4. New avatar Bill (?!).
    Look great 😉

  5. greg

    Good luck with you back.
    I have heard it said — A smart man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistake of others. Unfortunately I suspect I will never attain the title of wise man. Hey but thanks for posting anyway.

    • Well, you and I have that in common. I’m like the guy in that old Jim Croce song – “I learn the hard way every time”.

      Always good to hear from you Greg.


  6. Wow,

    Amazing this post appears at this exact moment. I have for the past few months been experiencing the exact same problems with my back. Sometimes I will be on the computer all day and all night and into the next morning. I have worked out for over 20 years with weights and cardio weekly but this new behavior still trashes my back.

    I have recently begun looking for a new office chair hoping more lower back support and possibly a more ergonomic design will help alleviate some of the stress. Most of the mesh chairs that seem to have the most support are $500 and up.

    I would gladly pay this if one of these chairs would make a difference. Has anyone here any experience with this type of chair.

  7. Pingback: Top 20 Most Popular Blogs – July 2010 « What's On My PC

  8. dar

    -speaking as someone with many,many motorcycles&car mishaps [track&street],old hot water tank hauling& falling off roofs, i say to You all that Structural Integration,aka,Rolfing, in only 10 sessions fixed 30+ yrs of misalignment wch was causing 24/7 Pain.
    -coupled with vitamin c&b complex,mg chloride,kelp&coconut oil & dietary elimination of all things dairy, has resulted in a body that is better than it was 35 yrs ago
    -You have to make the effort to assist yr body in healing itself& You will be rewarded
    -any invasive procedure is fraught with risk-a russian roulette,if you will of complications of adhesions, infections,energy flow disruptions
    -and the ipost operative rony is that your body is still misaligned because of the muscle tension,thickening of the fascia & tendon& ligament offsets
    -modern medicine regards the human body as individual blocks,with specialists for each& this is absurd,even in architecture,as loadbearing function is based on every bit impinging on the others
    -more so for the dynamic human body
    -even a lowly mechanic like myself can see this
    -think on,prof Bill: why not give rolfing&the rest a shot.
    ps try the static back exercise& be amazed:

    Static Back Exercise:
    Lie on your back with your legs up over a large block or up over a chair/couch
    Your arms are out at 45-degrees with the palms up
    Try to relax your upper back and notice if your low back is flat evenly from left to right
    HOLD [until bored]

    • Thank you Dar for taking the time to put this all together. I agree on the surgery thing, which is why I’ve put it off until the Fall. The docs wanted to do it almost immediately. Too quick, I thought.

      Just finished checking out Rolfing, and will check it out more thoroughly in the next few days. Will definitely do the Static Back Exercise frequently throughout the day.


  9. g

    I worked as a carpenter for about 10 years doing mostly framing and concrete forming. I ended up hurting my back and migrated into management eventually. Now days, most of my work is from a computer terminal but every hour I stretch out so I don’t get stove up! Stretching is SOOO important and has done wonders for my injury nearly15 years ago.

    • Hey G,

      You’re dead on buddy. Stretching is sooo important. I stopped doing even the basics, and paid the price. Pretty dumb!

      Have a safe 4th


  10. Nightjar

    I hope the back comes good for you Bill – and soon

    The facial hair gone. Russian sleeper slips the net near the border into Canada.

    Mullins short for Mullinski ?


  11. Mister Reiner

    Sorry to hear about your troubles Bill. I wish you all the best with regard to your health. Take care.

  12. Ramblinrick


    I tell you, IT has taken its’ toll on me as well (eyes, back, eating habits, etc…). I have been trying to make some adjustments, as well. Thanks for sharing “Workrave” with us.


    • Hey Rick,

      Hard to believe that IT can be an unhealthy occupation, but…..

      A few of my friends are sure that if I knocked back vast quantities of Scotch while computing, I’d hardly notice the discomfort. Maybe they’re right. 🙂


  13. greg


    In all seriousness try what Dar said. It is very good advice and practical. My understanding is that back surgery is very risky.

    • You’re right John, and in fact, I’ve already used the Static Back Exercise a few times this morning, and will again through the day. It’s very cool.


  14. Bill,
    Please allow me to express to you my wishes for a full, and speedy, relief from your pain.

    • Thanks Paul.

      It’s a right pain in the ass alright – but, like most things, time will take care of it.

      Good to hear from you – I appreciate your best wishes.

      Have a safe 4th.


  15. John Bent

    Hi Bill

    So sorry to hear about your back problems and I hope you find relief after surgery.

    Nearly forty years ago I suffered a prolapsed disc and spent many months in pain while a number of treatments were tried. Being a sales rep I spent many hours in the car and often could hardly get out of it at the end of the day.The first treatment was a course of painkillers, followed by another and another. Next came physiotherapy, still with no relief. Finally I was given a steel corset to wear (didn’t bother with the fishnets!). None of this helped and I’m allergic to morphine so that wasn’t an option.

    Another doctor taught me some stretching moves based on the Alexander technique and suggested I purchase a McKenzie lumbar roll. He said that, if this did not work, surgery would be the only option.

    To this day I still use a lumbar roll and, if I get the occasional twinge, do a couple of the Alexander stretches. These, and the fact that the spine stiffens gradually with age, mean that I have virtually no pain.

    I stress that this method is not for everyone and a consultation with a medical professional is a must for this type of problem.

    More information on the Alexander technique can be found at

    Kind regards


    • Hi John,

      Good that you didn’t go with the fishnets. lol

      I just spent some time on the Alexander technique site and, a number of related sites. Coincidentally, there is a course being taught by Robert Rickover, here in Toronto, July 8 – 24, which I will look into further. I’ve also taken note of your suggestion re: a lumbar roll.

      Thank you for taking the time to put together this helpful comment.



  16. Ranjan

    Hey Bill,
    Sad to hear about your back pain. Hoping for you to get relieved and recovered soon.
    “You have to make the effort to assist yr body in healing itself& You will be rewarded.”– Completely agree with this one. Just give a little bit of the time and care you give to your pc to your body also and let it heal itself. You’ll be amazed.
    Btw, your new avatar looks awesome Bill.. Or should i say ‘Dude’?!!

    • Hey Ranjan,

      You’re right – if I looked after my body as well as I look after my connected devices, I’d be much better off.

      You can call me “Dude”. lol


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