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As much as our social media streams may suggest otherwise, most climbers are real people with real jobs, spending a fair share of time deskbound. But fear not, weekend warriors, all that time in front of a computer screen doesn’t have to go to waste: With the proper approach, working at a desk can become a highly effective form of recovery. No joke.
Most of our physical gains occur during the rest phase. Muscular micro-tears, swelling, scrapes, and bruises heal quickly with the right nutrients, rest, and support. We are getting work done and paying the bills, and all the while our bodies are restructuring piece by piece. Here are a few tips on how to turn your desk into a rest oasis; they’re small changes, but add it up over several years and you’ll see a huge difference in the health of your body.
Repairing tight forearm muscles requires adequate blood flow that brings oxygen and the ability to rebuild small tears created during intense work like climbing. Unfortunately both your desk and your laptop can inhibit that, and they can create more stress on overworked arms. Laying your wrist flexors on any angled surface can produce friction, resulting in more knots and injury. Check your laptop; check your desk.
Fix it: Luckily, there’s a simple modification: inexpensive pipe foam from the hardware store. Just cut it to fit and tape it over the edge. More expensive options are edge protectors by Human Solution ($45) or the Imak Laptop Cushion ($16, amazon.com). A minimalist fix is to simply file or sand sharp edges down (if you own the laptop or desk, of course!), but your best rest will come when your forearm is in contact with a padded surface.
As you can easily push that mouse a few miles in a year, you need an intervention. The type of mouse you have is less important than how you use it. Positioning is everything. Don’t let the mouse sit as far from you as it can; pull it in close by your side and make friends with it. Same goes for your keyboard. Don’t make your body work harder than it has to.
Fix it: An easy solution for a huge issue, pulling your elbows toward your midline will rest the shoulder girdle stabilizers, neck, and rotator cuff in that neutral position. It can eliminate those aches and pains in the neck and upper back, which are common in desk workers, and it will protect your shoulders, which are prone to injury for climbers.
Let’s talk about friction. Repetitively rubbing the same spot on your hand or wrist on the surface of your mouse or desk could limit the ability of your body’s soft tissue to heal. Pain in any specific location that contacts the mouse is a sign that you might be putting too much pressure on that region. This aggravates pre-existing injuries and creates new ones.
Fix it: Easy modifications include stick-on silicone gel padding from the shoe aisle or self-care section of your local drug store, or you can swap to a different mouse altogether (see below). If your wrist is bothering you, try a pad that has a special gel-filled section for your wrist. Just as none of us climb the same, none of us mouse the same. Streamlining your uses will decrease your abuses.
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