Ergonomics: My new laptop stand raises up my screen so that I don’t have to bend my head and strain my neck.

DH = Dear Husband

Muscle spasm in my neck . . . and a wake-up call

Saturday January 23, I woke up with a bad head-ache, and it didn’t go away with Tylenol or Advil. I tried to go to work on Monday the 25th, but I had to leave in the early afternoon because the head-ache just took over. It was worrisome when we didn’t know what was causing it – since I don’t have a history of prolonged head-aches – to the extent that on day 6, I followed my doctor’s orders and went in for an emergency CT scan. When the results of that test came back negative, further check-ups resulted in the discovery of a muscle spasm in my neck.

I ended up missing almost two weeks of work, and besides taking prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, I got help from a physiotherapist as well as an occupational therapist. Good posture has always been a struggle for me (the fate of many tall girls of my generation who slouched to be shorter), and in default mode, my neck and head strain forward. I have to work at keeping my shoulders back and my chin tucked in. Through my consultation with the occupational therapist, I realized that both at home and at work, I wasn’t well set up ergonomically. My computer screens in both settings were too low, requiring my head to bend down, putting a strain on my neck.

I bought a laptop stand for home, and my place of work provides ergonomic assessments and solutions, so all is on track for a healthy outcome. The thing is, my neck spasm episode made me realize that I spend too much time on computers. At work, in a high school library, about 50% of my day is spent looking at a monitor. And at home, I blog. There isn’t much I can do about computer time at work, so the modification has to come from my time at home. From blogging.

How to reduce computer time?

If you’ve been following our journey out of debt for any amount of time, you no doubt know that I write a weekly post here at Prudence Debtfree, and a weekly post at Fruclassity, a site that I run along with fellow debt-blogger Laurie, from The Frugal Farmer. I see the two blogs are serving different purposes. Prudence Debtfree tells our story – DH’s and mine – as we make our way to debt-freedom. Fruclassity is a meeting place for people who are on the road to debt-freedom and financial freedom, providing a forum to explore different strategies and points of view when it comes to all things personal finance.

Prudence Debtfree

I started writing as Prudence Debtfree in May of 2012 when DH and I were getting set to start our journey out of debt. We took our first steps in June of  2012 with a total debt – consumer debt, business debt, mortgage debt – of $257,000, and a debt-to-income ratio that was way above the national average, not to mention way too high for people our age. Since that time, we have paid off all consumer debt and all business debt, besides making our regular mortgage payments, and we’re now down to a total debt of $114,000 – mortgage only. Our debt-to-income ratio is now way below average. It’s strange to say it, but relatively speaking, our personal finances are in good shape.


Laurie and I started Fruclassity less than a year ago, with a mission to provide a welcoming, open place for people trying to get to a state of better financial health. Laurie and I had a lot in common:

  • a history of flawed money management
  • a wake-up call in the form of job loss (our husbands’)
  • a determination to pay off debt
  • the experience of both encouragement and obstacles on the way to debt-freedom

We also each knew that while we admired the “badasses” of frugality – like Mr. Money Mustache –  we weren’t total subscribers to that extreme. And so Fruclassity was born. A combination of “frugality” and “class”. For the not-so-badass.

A choice to make

In knowing I had to cut back, I had to decide where: Prudence Debtfree? or Fruclassity? A tough choice! I love both of them. But here is where I am in my thinking:

DH and I are now on the last long stretch of our journey to debt-freedom. We’ve got a plan in place for steady savings as well as debt repayments, and we plan to execute it until our mortgage is $0. In all likelihood, that will take another three and a half years. I think that personal stories of debt-reduction are very important in an era when levels of personal debt are at record breaking highs and compromising so many lives. So I don’t want to stop telling ours.

Much as my personal vision for debt-freedom inspires me, the vision behind Fruclassity inspires me more. I believe that Western society as a whole is ready for a tipping point – away from debt, excess, waste – and that our individual stories will more quickly and constructively usher in that tipping point if they work together. Fruclassity‘s mandate aligns so well with that belief. And so I’m choosing to give it the priority.

I’ll continue to give updates on our personal journey to debt-freedom here at Prudence Debtfree – once per month. You’ll see our first monthly update starting next Saturday. On a weekly basis, I’ll link to whatever it is I’ve written for Fruclassity. Nothing is set in stone, and I can always shift again some time down the road, but for now, that’s my blogging plan.

Thank you

Let me just say how much I appreciate you for reading our story. I am so grateful for people who comment regularly, and for people who make the point of letting me know – in person, by e-mail, or maybe even a single comment  – that they’ve found something at Prudence Debtfree to help them along in their own situation. My stats suggest there are many more readers I don’t hear from, and I thank you too. I hope you’ll all keep coming by, whether to check on our latest monthly update or to be linked to Fruclassity – where I know you will continue to find allies as you harness your efforts and move against the grain towards financial health, confidence, and freedom.

Have you ever experienced a computer-related physical strain? Have you ever had to make the choice to cut back on something you love? Your comments are welcome.



Join the Conversation


  1. Well first and foremost I hope you are feeling better. I look forward to your post/updates. Always enjoy reading stories from families with similar journeys. I’m glad I’ll still get update on both sites no matter what the frequency. 🙂 I have not had a computer-related physical strain, but my wrist does feel a little pain every once in a while and I wonder if it related to using a mouse for some many years.

    1. Thank you, Brian! I appreciate that. I have started to move and click the mouse with my left hand for the same reason. The repetitive motions and strained postures associated with computer use definitely take their toll. If you try giving your left hand a try at the mouse, be patient. The clicking is hard to get used to at first : )

  2. I had shoulder impingement a couple years ago in both shoulders. That ailment is a mystery so all you can do is try thing, and give it time. One of the things I did was not do video work from a laptop because I was hunching in like you were and after a long day of that. Now I only work from big monitors. I think it makes sense to try and cut back. And I think anyone who runs two blogs knows how hard it can be, and i’m sure the choice was tough. I’m glad you’ll still be around in some form!

    1. Thank you, Tonya. I’m glad your shoulder issue got resolved. My husband does lots of video work on laptops, so maybe he should get some laptop stands too – or else got he big monitor route. I’ll definitely share your comment with him.

  3. Wow, I feel ya Ruth! A few decades ago I started getting blasting headaches that didn’t go away. It was way scary. After seeing doctor after doctor, it turned out to be TMJ. Not computer related. Just mostly nail biting and caffeine related. Definitely manageable. I did, however, have a computer related problem early into the internet years. My hands would go numb and then hurt really badly when I typed. Then one day I was talking to a computer guy who was describing the same problem. It turned out that all he had to do was lower his keyboard and the problem was fixed. Worked for me too! I sure was glad because a lot of people don’t realize it and get carpal tunnel surgery. I’m sure glad you were able to figure out your problem and how to fix it. While I’m sad that you’re pulling back, because I love this site so much, I am with you and will continue to stalk you over at Fruclassity! Feel better soon and forever, Dear Ruth! 🙂

    1. For you, it was to lower the keyboard, and for Abigail, it was to raise her chair. All these ergonomics that we’re discovering for future generations! Thank you very much for what you have to say about my site, Kay. I’m glad you plan to keep on stalking me!

  4. I’m sad to hear this news, but glad you’ll still be writing at Fruclassity. I definitely appreciate its mission and your burden that our society is at a “tipping point” as you said.

    I’ve had to cut back on exercise quite a bit after throwing out my back. As a former gymnast, I enjoy intense, challenging, high impact workouts, but my back does not agree. I really hope your neck will fully recover!

    1. I can just imagine how disappointing it must have been for you to have had to give up on the level of intense workout that you loved as a gymnast. As someone who did gymnastics only briefly, but who has always loved to watch it, I worry about the impact it has on people who do it long term. Perhaps you will find that you’re grateful, with perspective, that you’ve had to do lower impact workouts as a result of your back injuries. I hope you’ve been able to find a new normal that you’re happy with.

  5. Because of the strain of working on a computer all day long, I take a yoga class called “Somatic Yoga” at PranaShanti on Armstrong to “reset” my body. It corrects the head forward, rounded shoulders, curved back posture that so many of us are afflicted with. It’s not your typical yoga class because most of the exercises are done on your back or on your side, and it reprograms your brain to recognize when you are out of alignment as well as teaching easy exercises that can be done in minutes anywhere. It makes a big difference even though there’s no stretching or major effort involved.

    1. That sounds wonderful, LPC. It reminds me of what my husband was advised to do for a period of time a few years ago – again, for a forward straining neck. He did the Alexander Technique – and what I understand of it sounds a lot like what you describe. Thank you for pitching in here. I had never heard of Somatic Yoga before.

  6. Ouchie!

    I hurt my wrist a couple of years ago. When I’d type for more than a few minutes, my wrist would ache. I massaged it a bunch and got a chair that was higher up. It seemed to help, so I think the laptop stand will help.

    I’ll be sure to check Fruclassity more often now that you’ll be updating here less frequently.

    1. I suspect your forearms were at less than a 45 degree angle with your upper arms as you worked on your computer before. The importance of arm angle was another thing I learned from the OT. I’m glad that resolved your wrist issue. Thanks, Abigail : )

  7. Oh, man, that’s no good! Sara over at Unsettle had something similar happen with migraines. I don’t know what she did to alleviate them, but I seem to remember she cut back a little bit. I’m glad to see you’ll still be around…I’ll read you anywhere!

    1. Awww! What a nice thing to say! Thank you, Femme : ) I don’t know Sara, but I hope she’s found her way out from migraines.

  8. I’ve been working on computers full-time since 1979, first as a newsroom clerk at a big-city newspaper, then as a reporter at a different newspaper and finally as a full-time freelancer. In the last couple of years I’ve had rather painful bouts of frozen shoulder (first one side, then the other), neck stiffness, sore arms and wrists, lower back and hip issues…

    While I know that no machine runs for 58 years without some maintenance issues, I also know that my choice of profession can do a number on the physical plant. It can be hard to peel yourself away from hot deadlines in order to take ergo breaks, or walks. But let me tell all of you that failing to do so could make things a lot worse a couple of decades down the road.

    That said, I love being a freelancer and I love maintaining a blog. I just need to pay attention to what my body is telling me. (Hint: It often sounds like, “Ow.”)

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Donna. I used to think that working out 3 or 4 times a week would balance my generally sedentary days – driving to and from work and sitting at computers – but I understand that might not be true. Building in frequent, casual exercise is probably better than those few intensive visits to the gym. I’ll have to adopt a new way of doing things. It sounds like you’ve been dealing with an avalanche of life-at-a-computer physical issues lately. I hope you’ve been able to deal with each one, and that you’ll be able to work in whatever preventative measures you need to keep them at bay . . . and to keep writing. Thanks again for your comment. I really appreciate it.

    1. Thank you! I think (and hope) you can ward off the bad effects of too much sitting, Luke. Be proactive and make sure you move around. I’m sure that the research on this problem will continue to offer solutions and preventions.

  9. You’ve phrased that underlying feeling of a “tipping point” perfectly. It feels like our culture is balancing on the fulcrum; in both finance and food. Looking forward to following you on fruclassity!

    1. I have to give Malcolm Gladwell credit for the phrasing of “tipping point” : ) I never cease to be amazed at the close connection between food and finances! Thank you, Janeen : )

  10. I recently also “shifted down” my blogging efforts…..not because of an injury, but because I just needed to for my own sanity. I had been redlining my freelancing for a couple of years, and it was just time. After my promotion, we don’t necessarily NEED me to be generating as much income from blogging, and I can use the time for more family activities or other things I enjoy!

    1. I had to look up “redlining” and I don’t think the definition I saw fits. Do you mean by it that you have been turning down opportunities? I’m glad you’re not stopping altogether, Travis! It’s great to be in a position not to need the income from blogging – so that you can make it exactly what you want it to be. All the best in resisting the temptations of lifestyle inflation! And all the best in your new position : )

  11. I like how you position your laptop screen. I think this would give you less muscle spasm. I haven’t had this kind of experience yet, but when I position my laptop the way like yours it feels more convenient to me. Thanks for sharing this prudencedebtfree.

    1. I didn’t even know laptop stands existed until the OT recommended one. It’s made a big difference not to have to slouch to see the screen.

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