Ten Tips from a Chiropractor for Writers

By Debbie Burke


Disclaimer: nothing is this article should be construed as medical advice.

Writing can harm the body. Okay, it’s not as bad as logging, or bull riding, or bomb dismantling. But sitting all day hunched over a computer is not a healthy lifestyle.

Recently I had an enlightening conversation with a chiropractor, Dr. Erika Putnam, shown here consulting with her office manager, Hartty.

Dr. Erika has unique insight into the particular physical problems that beset our profession because she herself is a writer. In addition to her chiropractic practice and operating a yoga studio, she contributed to the Ultimate Guide to Self-Healing Volumes 1-5. She is also working on her memoir and a how-to manual for yoga instructors.

So…I asked her for tips specifically to help writers.

Her overall approach is to develop a “long-term vision of our health and career path.” She says, “Value your wellbeing and work toward preserving that. Think prevention rather than fixing damage.” She believes for optimal health, humans need fresh air, sunshine, the earth…and time away from staring at electronic devices. 

People who spend long hours sitting at a computer tend to develop tight chests, tight hip flexors, and are weak in the core and the butt.

What can we do about that?

Here are Dr. Erika’s 10 tips:

  1. Undo what you do. If you use muscles in the front of the body, you need to counteract by using muscles in the back. Below is a good exercise to undo writer’s slump.


2. Strive for anatomical neutral: This means good posture with shoulders back, head up, chest up, arms at your sides with hands extended. For yoga aficionados, this is similar to mountain pose.

3. Neck care: a head-forward posture is hard on the neck. The farther forward your head is, the more strain on your neck. Sit straight with your head in line with your shoulders and pull your head and chin back. Try the old balance-a-book-on-your-head trick.

4. More Neck Care: At least once an hour, turn your head from side to side, looking over your shoulders.

5. Breathing: When shoulders curl forward, breathing becomes shallow. Take deeper breaths to improve posture. Stretch arms over your head to move/open the ribs to allow deeper breathing. Repeat several times/hour.

6. Neutral spine: When seated, rock your pelvis to find the correct neutral spine posture.

7. Sitting posture: If you sit on the back of the “sit bones,” pressure on the pelvis over time wears out disks in the spine.

Instead, sit up on sit bones. A pillow behind your back may help.


8. Hand care: Typing uses finger flexion which tends to curl hands into claws. To counteract, open your hands, stretch fingers, and press palms together.

9. Get up and move around at least once an hour. Take a walk. Do stretches. Dr. Erika suggests: “Go outside and play with dirt.”

10. I’ll take credit for this tip which came about after my visit with Dr. Erika.

After spending an hour with her, I became much more aware of my posture, standing straighter, shoulders back, chest up, head up. When I got into my car to leave, I noticed the rearview mirror was tilted too low. It had seemed fine while driving to her office. But, after an hour of consciously improving my posture, I realized I now sat a couple of inches taller in the seat. I needed to adjust the mirror upward.

I decided to leave the mirror in the higher position as a reminder to sit up straight.

The more reminders the better.

 One final note: Dr. Erika says she can’t back up the following observation with scientific studies but she has frequently noticed that people with a right-side head tilt often have a great deal of left-brain activity.

Here’s a discussion of right brain/left brain from Medical News Today.

JUST FOR FUN — Here’s a totally unscientific experiment to try:

If you’re having problems with plot organization, see what happens if you tilt your head to the right. Does that activate your left (analytical) brain?

If your story needs more feeling, trying tilting your head to the left. Does that activate your intuition and emotion?

Does head tilting make any difference in your thinking process? Please share your results in the comments.


TKZers: What helps keep your writer’s body in good condition? Do you have favorite exercises?

Pound the Keys and Drop the Pounds

James Scott Bell

I was presenting at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference last month, and a fellow writer told us about this doctor who’s invented a treadmill desk. His theory, this doctor, is that you have to move a little to lose a lot (thus the title of his book, yes, Move a Little, Lose a Lot). Our bodies at rest (like when we’re sitting and typing) slow down the metabolism and preserve our body fat, so we have enough energy to run away from a mastodon should it invade our cave.
So says this doctor. But if you work at your desk and walk at the same time, hey! Drop those ugly pounds while you’re answering emails or talking to clients!
Reminds me of that scene in Woody Allen’s Bananas, where product tester Fielding Mellish tries out a prototype exercise desk, with less than optimal results. Have a look:

Now Dr. James Levine, of the Mayo Clinic, seems to have ironed out all those bugs. The only problem is that his desk costs around five grand. Here’s a picture.
Always looking for a way to save a few bucks (or a few thousand), I figured out a cheapie alternative. As in zero dollars. I already have a treadmill. And I have an AlphaSmart Neo. I just stuffed a towel in the gap between the bar and console, and rested Alphie on top.
Walk at a steady 2.5 and . . . type!
Here is your intrepid correspondent, shedding pounds and creating art, under the watchful eye of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.

This must make me the very definition of a lean, mean writing machine.
Which leads to today’s question: where is the strangest place you’ve ever written?  

Exercise your creativity

So this week I’ve been walking with Mac, my newly adopted dog (No, that’s not me in the picture, but the dog looks like Mac). During our jaunts we have to climb an enormous hill, and I wind up huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf. The experience has underscored the extent to which I’d fallen into a sedentary rut before I got Mac. Make that a trench.

People often say that exercise is good for creativity. After just one week I can’t tell much difference in my writing juices, so I decided to do a bit of research into the question: Does doing exercise assist creativity?

The good news: I found references to studies which indicated that yes, exercise does increase creativity. The bad news: That boost doesn’t happen for people who are physically unfit. In cases such as moi, the fatigue from exercise seems to overwhelm the creativity boost. Sometimes this is out of your control because of a medical condition amd normally these people can only just about manage floor pelvic excercise. Therefore, if you are wondering “where can I find a gynecologist near me” you should perform a Google search to find the answer for yourself.

That may explain why I haven’t noticed any surge in productivity or inspiration this week. But there’s always hope: As I get in better shape, I should be able to reap the benefits of exercise. A friend suggested that I try out some Boston, MA Tennis Lessons to help me get into the swing of it.

What about you? Does exercise get your creative juices flowing? What kind of activity do you do?