Sunday, June 25, 2017

Tips to save your neck and back working on the computer

The way we do things throughout the day can sometimes have the greatest impact on our symptoms. Our body learns by repetition, so our daily habits are critical. I find them to be so important that I devoted an entire chapter to them in my dystonia book, sharing different ideas, tips, and tricks for doing different everyday activities with greater ease. Recently, I have been hearing from lots of people who are having difficulty working at their computer, so I want to focus on this particular topic. What I have to share is my opinion and not universal, but hopefully you find some ideas helpful.


For a bit of history, when my symptoms were more severe, I had to push my head straight to see the computer screen and was only able to type with one hand, like many of you. I pushed so hard, I had a red welt on the side of my chin. For those of you that need to hold your head for support, by all means do so. Putting a pillow or a book under the arm you use to hold your head might make it easier so you don’t slouch or lean to one side. This is how I started. Over time, I only had to lightly touch my chin using an antagonistic gesture (sensory trick) to keep my neck muscles from pulling. I then got to where I didn’t need to hold my head or cup my chin in my hand.

Aside from the obvious pain and fatigue that comes with dystonia, one of the main culprits of neck and back pain when we work on the computer is poor posture and improper use of armrests, or not using them at all. Resting our arms at certain angles or holding them up to type puts stress on the neck, shoulders, and back. Even people without dystonia develop problems in these areas when they don't use armrests or when they use them improperly, but it is especially important for us.

Many of us have laptops, smart phones, tablets, iPads, etc., making it so we can sit, stand, or lay down wherever we want to do our work. However, we tend to get lazy and find the most comfortable position, which is usually one that promotes poor posture. Some people will put their gadget on a desk or table where they have to lift their arms up and/or out to reach the keys to type. Some put them on a coffee table or bed and then lean forward to type.

All of this puts WAY too much strain on the body if the arms, shoulders, and neck are not evenly supported. Even sitting with computers on our laps can promote poor posture, typically one that is slumped or rounded. It also happens when we type on our phones. This posture shortens/tightens our muscles, potentially increasing symptoms.

Below is an image showing one of the ways to not sit at the computer. At first glance it looks like he is in a good position, and for the most part he is, but notice the amount of space between his arm and armrest, forcing him to engage much more of his upper body than necessary.


Although he is sitting in good posture and not reaching for the keyboard, holding his arms in the air to type strains his neck, shoulders, and back. Also notice the upward angle of his arms to the keyboard, the opposite they should be for a relaxed working position.

This man has dystonia and his primary area of pain, muscle spasms, and tightness is his neck, shoulders, and base of the skull, and it is at its worst when he works. When he modified his work station that allowed him to rest his arms at a stress free angle, it reduced his symptoms.

I use a laptop and because I can’t find a comfortable position to sit and work without reaching for the keys and straining my neck and shoulders, I bought a wireless keyboard and mouse. I also bought a desk that has a slide out keyboard tray. I put the wireless keyboard and mouse on the slide out tray and the laptop on the desk. I have a desk chair where the armrests slide right up to the keyboard tray (see below).

My arms are at a level that when I am typing my hands sit comfortably on the keys. There is a slight downward angle from my elbows to my hands to the keyboard, which keeps my shoulders relaxed. My screen is a little below eye level so I don’t have to strain to hold up my head or lean it forward or back. My chin is slightly pulled back and tucked, keeping my head and neck in a neutral position. I also use an Obusforme back support to help with posture.

Below is a picture of my work station. I certainly don’t have the best posture in the world and my core is not as engaged as well as it could be, but notice how my elbows sit comfortably on the armrests and my arms angle downward toward the keyboard, taking stress off my neck and shoulders. This position allows me to work longer hours.


I will also lay on the floor on my back with my laptop propped up against my knees, especially when I have a lot of writing to do. This might be the best option for those who find sitting to be difficult, and there are many laptop stands you can get that are designed for working while laying down. The one I use is called Laptop Laidback which I highly recommend. "Little" things like this can make a world of difference in our symptoms. For more tips and tricks for daily activities, please see my dystonia book.

Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram

http://www.diagnosisdystonia.com/

Monday, June 19, 2017

Attitude determines altitude

People often tell me how positive I am, and that is true most of the time. Having lived over 15 years with a painful, life changing neurological disorder called dystonia, there is no way on earth I could do it if I didn't have a positive outlook on not only this aspect of my life, but on every other aspect of my life. Before I give the wrong impression, I still struggle with difficult symptoms, so it is not as though I am cured or have all the answers. I continue to be a work in progress, but for those who know me or have read my book, you know that I have come a long way from some very dark places, and you can too.

For those of you who are deeply suffering, talk of a positive attitude may anger you. I understand. There was a time when it would infuriate me also. What I have learned over time though, is that this is the only way to live well, but we can only embrace this mindset when we are ready. Take your time. Allow the grief process to play out. This is hugely important.


I don't say "be positive" for the sake of saying it and I wouldn't look for life's silver linings unless I truly believed it helped. I know what suffering is like and would never blow smoke up your backside or put a fluffy spin on things. Some people feign happiness and a positive outlook, while others live it. Both work, but if you actually believe it and live it, it will have a greater impact. A genuinely positive attitude helps us cope more easily with the daily affairs of life. It brings optimism into our lives, making it easier to avoid worries and negative thinking. It also produces more of the "feel good" hormones in the brain. Check out The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.

There is a popular saying, "Attitude determines altitude", and this is the absolute truth in my opinion. I lived in a very pain filled, depressed and anxiety ridden world for a long time, but I chose to not let myself be that person anymore. I realized that there was no way for me to live and battle successfully if I wallowed in misery. Even though I try to find the silver lining in most things, I still struggle and it can sometimes get to where my head wants to explode. This is when I know I have to dig even deeper to keep myself from losing my marbles and going into that dark hole I once lived for way too long.

When I keep my eyes focused on the positive, or put a positive spin on things, I am better off. However, it's okay to sometimes talk about what is wrong and vent about it. I do. Sometimes focusing on what is wrong with us is the best thing to do because we need to express our emotions. Acknowledgement of our pain is also the first step to healing. However, we can't let ourselves only live in that depressed, anger filled world with no talk, or action steps, about how to get out of it. It just won't work.



Years ago when Zig Ziglar declared, “It is your attitude, more than your aptitude, that will determine your altitude," a lot of people saw it as a catchy phrase from a motivational speaker. But he was right. Please take these words to heart and even in the depths of despair, never give up hope. If I can turn my life around from pure misery and despair, and to this day still battle with intense symptoms at times, you can too. We all can.

If you need help, reach out and I or someone else will lend a hand. We can often feel very alone, but I promise if you extend your hand, there will be someone there to grab it and help you get through the day, and that is all that matters. Forget about yesterday. Forget about tomorrow. Just get through this moment right now and tomorrow will take care of itself.




Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram
http://www.diagnosisdystonia.com/

Sunday, June 4, 2017

My experience using CBD oil for chronic pain and anxiety

Disclaimer: I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

Having lived with chronic pain for over 15 years due to a neurological movement disorder called dystonia, I am always looking for ways to better manage my symptoms. My symptoms not only include pain, but involuntary muscle spasms/contractions, overall muscle tightness, restricted head/neck movement, and a racing mind.

While I have taken medications for some of these symptoms, I prefer a more natural approach, so diet, exercise, supplements, and stress free living are very important to me. Something I have not tried until recently is CBD oil. The more I hear about the success people are having for things such as neurological disorders, multiple sclerosis, cancer, inflammation, pain, muscle spasticity, arthritis, depression, anxiety, seizures, and many other conditions, the more it intrigues me. My main reasons for trying it are pain, muscle relaxation, and mental calmness.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, the non-addictive compound found in the cannabis (marijuana) plant, often known as hemp. CBD has a wide range of medical benefits, a few of which were mentioned above. Of special interest to many of my readers with neurological conditions, CBD studies are showing that it may have a neuroprotective effect. The other well-known compound in cannabis is THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the principal psychoactive, potentially addictive element. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a “high.” While this makes CBD a poor choice for recreational users, it makes it an appealing option for patients like me looking for relief without the high or addiction.

As a member of Chronic Illness Bloggers, a network of bloggers focused on chronic illness, I was selected to try a CBD product called Liberty Lixir Ultra by a company called Liberty Lotion. It is a spray that you put under your tongue (they also have a dropper bottle if you prefer). The product I tested has a strength of 1000 mg, and each spray pump has 6.7 mg of CBD. I used anywhere between 3 and 6 pumps per day (~ 20-40 mg/CBD a day), over the course of a month. I had no issues with how to take it, determining how much I was taking, deciding how much to take to get my desired results, or any feelings of dependency.

http://libertylotion.com?aff=4

In that short amount of time, my pain decreased roughly 25-50%, I am more active, my recovery time from activities has been faster, and my mind is calmer. I don’t feel as rushed or hurried all the time. I usually sleep pretty well, but the CBD seems to have increased the speed I fall asleep. Interestingly, I never took it before bed. I only took it once a day and always midday. I also experienced a slight decrease in appetite, which might be of special interest to those who are interested in losing/maintaining weight.

The best way to describe how I feel is a general overall sense of wellness with greater peace of mind. I feel more grounded. My moods never really fluctuated much at all, but I feel more mentally stable and in better control. All the changes are subtle, but noticeable in a very natural way, which is how anything natural, versus synthetic, should feel.

I certainly can’t promise that you will experience any of the positive things I have, but if you are curious about CBD and are interested in a quality product at a good price, consider Liberty Lixir Ultra. Their website contains a lot of valuable information about CBD and studies on its use for many conditions. Customer service has also been very knowledgeable. I plan to continue taking it for as long as I get positive results.

Click here or any of the links in the blog and it will take you to the Liberty Lotion website. If you decide to get this product, follow the links in this blog and use the coupon code “Liberty17” for a 10% discount. Good luck and please share your experience with me after you begin using it. Thanks!


Tom Seaman is a chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone living with any life challenge. He is also a support group leader for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) and Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness. To learn more about Tom and get a copy of his book, visit www.diagnosisdystonia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1