As I mentioned over two years ago, one of the indignities middle age has visited on me has been A Shoulder,* self diagnosed as a rotator cuff injury. As this was causing me some distress by changing my reading habits of a lifetime, I eventually took myself off to a physiotherapist who basically winced, strapped it up a bit, told me to sort out my neck or I’d really start suffering and finally sent me to my GP who sent me for an X-Ray, diagnosed a very tiny amount of calcification in the joint and bounced me back to the physio.
Unfortunately at this point I’d stopped seeing the physio for the very British reason that she’d suggested doing some acupuncture, which I didn’t particularly want, so I dealt with it by saying nothing and then never going back, which I’m sure you’ll agree is an entirely rational response. This threw me onto the tender mercies of Dr Google and also asking everyone else in the Shoulder cohort what they suggested. When the pandemic hit and I started spending longer at my desk, I did finally raise my screens up to eye level, get a decent chair, and a separate keyboard. I also bought a not-as-kinky-as-you-might-hope Swedish device that encourages me to sit more upright, did more yoga and an exercise suggested by someone on Facebook I vaguely know but have never met, started reading propped up in bed like a middle aged woman in a 70s sitcom, and hoped that things would improve.
And there things stayed for roughly the last year: not in as much pain as I originally was, but with a constant nagging ouch in the background and a limited range of mobility in my right arm. I resigned myself to the steady decline of age. After all, for a cyclist, A Shoulder was better than A Knee, and both are better than A Back.
And then my keyboard began to play up, and I idly asked on Twitter if anyone had any opinions about replacement keyboards (spoiler: oh boy, yes they did). It turns out keyboards are complicated. Just as I was about to go down a loooong rabbithole regarding mechanical keyboard switches and how many centiNewtons of force I wanted to use for each key stroke (I swear I am not making this up), someone came to my rescue by offering to send me his old ergonomic keyboard, saving me from weeks of research and indecision and it from ending up in landfill (or the drawer under the bed where old electronic equipment goes to die, which is more or less the same thing).
Shortly afterwards the keyboard arrived and I have to admit, at first I was dubious. I don’t know how many centiNewtons of force were needed to press the keys, but it felt like a lot, and indeed the whole keyboard felt like it was designed for the Default Man with large manly hands rather than someone who spent her university years wearing children’s gloves because they fit better than adult ones. Plus I’ve always secretly felt a bit dubious about these ergonomic keyboards – they just looked a bit unnecessary. Surely I didn’t need a special keyboard when I’d spent all my life battering away on a five quid job from Tesco?
However, I persevered. And after about five days of battling with the thing, I noticed something strange. Well, two things. One, my shoulders were no longer around my ears and I was resting my wrists on the rest the way I was supposed to with my upper body largely relaxed. And two, my shoulder – and indeed my neck – no longer hurt. I found myself rotating my arm around this way and that, trying to remember exactly what it was I wasn’t able to do before and not finding it. The whole nagging background pain I’ve been carrying around for the last two years … just gone.
I do realise that ‘ergonomic keyboard actually makes life better for someone with shoulder pain’ is yet another finding in the No Shit Sherlock category from the School of the Bleeding Obvious, but hey, it turns out it’s one more thing I’ve had to learn the hard way. Hopefully there’s someone out there who can profit from my experience without having to do the whole ‘two years of pain’ part. If so, you’re welcome.
And now having written all this and realising I may no longer have A Shoulder, I’m just crossing everything that it doesn’t get replaced by A Knee instead. Or, worse, A Back. Ergonomically, of course
* As I understand it, as you approach your middle years, everyone is issued with either A Shoulder, A Knee or, if you’re really unlucky, A Back, which will be your cross to bear for the next couple of decades, when I believe things really start falling apart.