After spending 40 days straight sitting at the desk in my home office in a frantic attempt to finish the way-overdue manuscript for my second book, I can tell you that my favorite office supply is no longer a Sharpie or a binder clip, but a soft-yet-supportive gel pad (or, rather, two of them) that has saved me from near-constant, searing elbow pain.
Resting my arms on a hard desk surface for 12 hours every day was murder on my elbow joints. I slowly but surely developed a version of the classic tennis-elbow injury, called “computer elbow” (yes, it’s a real modern ailment). My elbows were tender, sore, burning, and throbbing, even when I was lying in bed or relaxing on the couch. At one point, I was typing with bags of ice strapped to them in a desperate attempt to relieve the pain. After resorting to using travel packs of tissues to cushion my elbows as I typed, I decided to consult the internet and mercifully found these (hilarious) gel pads called Jelbows, made to be placed under your arms while you’re working at your desk.
Developed by three guys who were sick of having pain in their wrists and elbows after a day at the office, they are ugly as hell (and the name is ridiculous), but unlike using any old soft item you may have lying around (like, say, a tiny packet of tissues), they are sleek and unobtrusive — as well as being far less likely to invite commentary from co-workers than if you trucked a bedroom pillow from home to the office to use for the same purpose. After 30 seconds of using them, you forget they’re there. Available in two sizes (four inches and six inches) and three colors — black, blue, or clear (I have the larger ones in clear) — they’re lightweight enough that I can toss them in my laptop bag when I’m traveling, too.
They almost completely ease the pain of repetitive work strain that can start at the elbow and radiate all the way down to your wrists and fingers. I tend to switch back and forth between resting my elbows, wrists, and forearms on my desk — the Jelbows work perfectly to relieve the pressure on each.
More Strat-approved ergonomic upgrades
For an ergonomic desk experience, writer Alice Gregory recommends a Norwegian kneeling chair: “Unlike a regular chair, the shape forces you to engage your core, and naturally keeps your spine upright. Your back muscles strengthen, and circulation improves. Sure, the chair makes you look like an industrious frog, but you’ll never get back pains again.”
If your flimsy office chair needs some additional back support, writer Maureen O’Connor highly recommends this mesh add-on: “The device borrows its strategy from the wildly popular (but unpleasantly stern-looking) Herman Miller Aeron chair, the office status symbol that says, ‘Someone cares enough to spend a grand on my spine.’ Much like the Aeron, the Easy Posture sports a bouncy nylon mesh stretched over a light wire frame, and, as opposed to a shapeless pillow, it comfortably curves into the lower back near the base of the spine. It’s a gentle nudge to sit up straight and can be strapped onto the chair of your choice — and, most critically, removed whenever you want.”
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