How I reduce muscle stiffness and pain while at work

Summer break is over — meaning less physical activity

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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Heading back to work at school at the end of summer is always an adjustment. As a college counselor and high school history teacher, having summers off is great, but it means quickly getting back into the swing of things.

I try to make the most of my time during the summer by relaxing and recharging to combat chronic fatigue caused by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), although that doesn’t always happen.

During the break, I spend a lot of my time outdoors. I live and work on a horse farm, and I manage much of my chronic pain with physical activity. Lots of walking and otherwise moving around helps me avoid getting stiff.

When I go back to work, the periods of physical activity are more fragmented. Whether or not I sit most of the day depends on which role I’m performing.

After school, I try to get in as much riding and farm work as possible before the sun sets.

Unlike most teachers, I have an office because my primary job is counseling. That means I’m not on my feet as much as a full-time teacher. Sometimes that’s good because it gives my body a break. But sitting too long can cause stiffness, so I’ve looked for ways to avoid it.

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What works for me

In my many years of teaching, I’ve learned three things that make my EDS complications more manageable. First, I rotate between sitting and standing. A standing desk placed on top of my regular one didn’t really work for me, though. With my injured shoulder, it was difficult to have my arm hanging down without support. After a lot of digging, I found a free-standing desk that’s similar to a high table with wheels. It allows me to rest my entire arm while I type, which eases the stress on my shoulder.

I also take regular breaks to walk around. I’m lucky to work in a supportive office with colleagues who are happy to let me do what I need to do to practice self-care. Walking around the outside of the building takes only about three minutes, but it provides me a great physical and emotional boost. I usually take a lap in the morning and another in the afternoon.

I also make sure to wear supportive shoes. I’ve always had trouble with blisters on my feet, and recently, I’ve also been experiencing foot and heel pain. I don’t worry too much about fashion over function, so my shoes need only to be comfortable and professional.

Lastly, I’ve learned to try something new if what I’m doing isn’t working. I discovered that, even with good shoes, my feet or knees would hurt when I was at my standing desk, so I got a shock-absorbing mat to stand on. When I have back pain, I plug in a heating pad and set it up in my desk chair.

These small changes have made a big difference in my day-to-day comfort.

Like many things with EDS, finding what works best is often a process of trial and error. If a decision isn’t working like I had hoped, I’ve learned to search for other options until I find something that helps me.

It’s not always easy, and little things don’t magically make my EDS symptoms vanish. But they certainly do help to keep me more comfortable as I go about the day.

Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.


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