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Author Topic: Help me work from my back.
mr_porteiro_head
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OK. So, I hurt my back a few weeks ago, now have a ruptured disk, and there's a good chance that back surgery is in my future.

That is what it is, and I'll deal with it if and when it comes. In the meantime, I really need to keep working. As stressful as this has been, it would be much worse if I couldn't keep supporting my family.

I work on the computer, and I am unable to sit down. These last two weeks I've mostly been working (and doing everything else) while laying on my back, and it looks like that's not going to change any time soon.

The setup I have for working on my back works OK, but I'd really like to improve it. I work from home, so I can pretty much set up anything I want. I've got some ideas of my own, but I'm hoping that some of y'all might have more ideas.

Here's my setup: I lay on my back on the floor with a pillow under my head and a folded towel beneath my back. I have my monitor sitting on a chair beside me. My keyboard sits either on my stomach or my legs, and my mouse and a mouse pad are underneath the chair beside me.

Some problems with this setup:
  • Keyboard. I have a standard keyboard. When I put it on my stomach, I have to contort my arms in order for my hands to be in the right position, which is with the fingers pointing toward my toes, right next to each other. When I do this, my hands are out of alignment enough that I can't type well. So when I do a lot of typing, I place the keyboard on my legs and extend my arms all the way. Not only is it uncomfortable for my arms to stay in a fully extended position, but having to put my legs down puts more stress on my back. I go throughout the day alternating between having it on my stomach where I can't type very well and having it on my legs which makes me feel not so well.
  • Monitor. With the monitor on a chair next to me, I have to prop my head up with a pillow and turn it to the side in order to use it. This is a literal pain in the neck. It wish I could get the monitor to hover in the air above me.
  • Mouse. The only way I can really use the mouse on the floor is to have my arm extended all the way. This is tiring on my arm. Also, it's a pain to have the mouse and the keyboard so far from each other, as it makes switching between them harder.

Some possible solutions:
  • Ergonomic keyboard. A normal ergonomic keyboard would make typing with the keyboard on my stomach easier. Even better would be one an ergonomic keyboard which completely splits into two, except that without a stable surface, I'm afraid that the two smaller keyboards would be too unstable on my belly to really use well.

    Does anybody have any recommendations for a good ergonomic keyboard? I've heard that Microsoft's keyboards are pretty good.
  • I'm seriously considering mounting an LCD monitor onto the underside of my computer desk, and working from there. The screen would be a little closer to my eyes than I want, but I think it could work.
  • I could try a trackball, but without a convenient place to mount it, I'm not sure it would work any better than a mouse.

My current plan is to buy an ergonomic keyboard ASAP and mount my LDC monitor underneath my computer desk.

Any suggestions as to how I could improve this new setup? Will it strain my eyes too much to have the monitor too close? Are there some potential gotchas that I perhaps missed?

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fugu13
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I've seen references to people who work on their back out of preference, and it typically involves looking straight up at their monitor. Unfortunately, I don't recall their keyboard choices, but I suspect some disability organizations might have some good tips.
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advice for robots
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Foamcore. I built an entire keyboard and mouse tray out of foamcore once so I could work with my wireless keyboard and mouse in my lap. Foamcore, spray mount, and an X-acto knife, plus a good cutting surface. You can build anything you want quickly, if you’re not terribly concerned about design aesthetics.

Could you get one of those completely separating keyboards and put one half on the floor on either side of you? Also, maybe a gyroscope/kinetic mouse that responds to how your hand is tilted so you don’t need a solid surface for it?

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Could you get one of those completely separating keyboards and put one half on the floor on either side of you?
I haven't been able to find one of those yet, but that's a good idea if I ever find one.
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Tante Shvester
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Before my husband lost his ability to speak, he relied on Dragon Dictate voice recognition software. (Now he uses the computer with a combination of software that tracks the movements of his eyes on an on-screen keyboard -- very pricey! -- and a Darcy USB to input Morse code). Dragon Dictate is not too expensive, and may make your work much more comfortable. Rather than a mouse or trackball, you may find it easier to use a Glidepoint mouse.

Would you be able to tolerate a partially upright position? Your insurance may cover a hospital-type adjustable bed, which, along with a bed tray or overbed table might provide you with a more comfortable work set up.

I'm so sorry to hear that you are still suffering. I wish you a full and speedy recovery.

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Megan
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For the keyboard, you might consider getting (or making?) an adjustable lap desk (something like this). If you make it or have it made, you could even have it wide enough to manage the mouse as well.

Edit: Come to think of it, even if you bought it, you could add a thin piece of wood to extend it and use the mouse on it.

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NotMe
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Almost all flat panel monitors are compatible with the standard VESA mounting system. Get a good wall mount kit and you can have your monitor tilted any direction you need, and it doesn't have to be really close to the floor. I can second the recommendation for Dragon Naturally Speaking: it is a viable alternative to typing for most users. Get the high-end edition and you will be able to dictate a lot of mouse commands, too.

You can consider getting a one-handed keyboard. The Maltron keyboards will probably be the most comfortable for you to use, but there are others. A decent trackball or touchpad should work well, and you probably won't have to worry much about mounting it. If that gets boring, you could use a Wiimote.

Also, make sure that you try to get your employer to pay for these. You are currently disabled. That loosens purse strings, particularly if people at work depend on you to keep working. When my mom developed arthritis that prevented her from typing, she got a laptop, wireless keyboard and mouse combo, and Dragon from the county agency she works for.

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Humean316
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MPH, I had the same problem, a disc in back ruptured and I couldn't sit for the longest time because of my sciatic nerve, but for me, after exercising a while it went away and I haven't needed surgery yet. I will in the future more than likely, but for now its fine and I am able to sit down, so it might be the case that in a while you will be able to sit down.

What I actually did when I needed to lay down all the time was to lay down on my couch with my laptop on my chest and working from the couch, and though I don't know if you have a laptop that might work. If not, I recommend the wireless keyboard and mouse that others have suggested, but I also think you should lay on your couch with the monitor on maybe a coffee table if you have it. The laying on the floor thing never worked for me because it was too hard on my back so you might try that...

I feel your pain bro I really do!

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Kwea
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mph, have you tried a kneeling seat? It wonks for most people with back problems. It looks uncomfortable, but my wife, who has back problems, swears it is the best "chair" she has ever used.
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xnera
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Here's a computer workstation for use while laying on your back. Too expensive for short-term use, but I ran across it recently and thought it was too cool not to link here. [Smile]
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Valentine014
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This keyboard seems to be what you are describing. Before I saw xnera's link, I was also looking for that desk. I Stumbled onto a page where some gamer was using it. Looked darn comfortable.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Tante -- a touchpad mouse is a good idea. looks like a good idea.

I wish I had a hospital-type bed. They've got to cost a bundle, don't they?

Megan -- that laptop desk looks perfect! I found another version that I'm going to try to copy out of scrap tomorrow.

Kwea -- I've never used a kneeling seat, and I'd like to, but I don't think it would help me much with my current situation. It's just too upright for me to handle right now.

Xnera -- that looks freaking awesome. Its price looks a little too awesome for me, though.

Valentine -- I saw that keyboard before, but only the one where the keyboard separates 6 inches, but on the web site you linked to it has another version which separates 20 inches. Thanks.

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mr_porteiro_head
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OK, I'm underneath my desk, looking straight up at my monitor. I can already tell this isn't going to work. It's far too enclosed and stuffy down here, especially with a giant computer blowing hot air next to me. Also, it's too dark, which makes the monitor, which is too close, too bright. It would actually be better if my LCD monitor weren't so big -- with it this close, it's so big that I can't easily take in the whole screen at once.

But that's OK. I'll put in some adjustable shelving onto the wall of my office, and I'll mount the monitor onto the underside of a shelf. It won't be as slick or purdy as a wall-mounted monitor stand, but I don't plan on needing it forever.

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quidscribis
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mph, there's also the type of keyboard that isn't a keyboard, but a system of tracking finger movements, for lack of a better way of explaining it. I don't know if that would work for you, but it sounds like it would be worth checking out.

Good luck. Back pain is horrid.

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KarlEd
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Porter, how long do you expect to have to work this way? (There's a model of the ergo desk that's under $2k. That's still pricey, I know, but if this is going to be for weeks, or a recurring thing, you could see if insurance would cover all or part of that.)

(Or for that matter, I don't know your work situation, but if your company can't help out or if you're self-employed, you might be able to deduct the expense. I imagine it would be worth the cost in terms of increased productivity in a relatively short time.)

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by KarlEd:
Porter, how long do you expect to have to work this way? (There's a model of the ergo desk that's under $2k. That's still pricey, I know, but if this is going to be for weeks, or a recurring thing, you could see if insurance would cover all or part of that.)

(Or for that matter, I don't know your work situation, but if your company can't help out or if you're self-employed, you might be able to deduct the expense. I imagine it would be worth the cost in terms of increased productivity in a relatively short time.)

This man speaks the truth!
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Narnia
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Aw, Porter! I'm so sorry you're having so much trouble! [Frown] I have no helpful suggestions, but I'll keep you in my prayers.

How long until you know if you'll need surgery, and when will that be? You shouldn't have to deal with so much pain on your own.

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mr_porteiro_head
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I am not self-employed. I'm a full time employee who happens to work at home, as does most of the company. I've started the process of finding out how much work will pay, and on Monday I'll start checking out what I can get insurance to pay for.

How long will I have to work this way? Weeks, if not months. It depends. I still haven't seen a neurosurgeon, so I'm mostly guessing.

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aspectre
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Have you considered typing while lying head-up in the prone position on a slightly tilted "massage table"? As often as not, I internet while prone on a bed or lounge chair: me on the bed, chest on pillows, keyboard on a wooden*tv-tray with my forearms resting on the tv-tray, and the monitor on a desk or table.

Since the bed or lounge is horizontal, my particular position forces one to curve the back; which does put some stress on the neck and the small of the back.
Hence my suggestion of using a slightly tilted "massage table" to reduce the need to curve ones back and neck.

True massage tables tend to be a bit on the expensive side, but it shouldn't be that difficult to cobble an equivalent together with two halves of a 4'x8' 3/4"plywood sheet , 3 2"x4"s, and a lounge chair mattress.

* For stability. Amazing how expensive those particular tv-trays are. I got mine for a third of that price per tv-tray.

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mr_porteiro_head
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I've done quite a bit of typing in the prone position, taking the LCD screen off of its stand so that it's right on the floor leaning against the wall, and propping myself up with pillows. I like it, except that it's even harder on my neck than laying on the floor with the monitor on a chair next to me.

I never thought of using a massage chair. Those support the head, which would solve that problem. My sister-in-law up in Portland is a massage therapist, but she's not working right now. I could probably get her chair from her on a temporary basis, if only I could get up to Portland. There's no way I could sit in a chair that long, and with me not being able to help out around the house much at all, Beverly's absolutely swamped.

I'm having trouble visualizing the position you say you usually internet in (verbing weirds language! [Smile] ).

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Narnia
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Porter, I will bring the chair down to you next weekend if she can spare it. Seriously, just tell me where she lives.
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Tante Shvester
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
I wish I had a hospital-type bed. They've got to cost a bundle, don't they?

Well, you don't buy the hospital bed. You rent it. So the cost isn't horrible. And, with your doctor's prescription, your health insurance may cover the cost.

Xnera, I forwarded your link to my husband. He might just be interested in such a contraption. Makes a great Father's Day present!

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Wendybird
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No advice just wishes for a speedy recovery! Back pain is horrible. I hope you can figure out a workable situation soon!

That desk is just awesome - I'd never get my hubby away from his game if we had one of those [Wink]

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BlackBlade
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Porter: If you don't mind my asking, who do you work for and what do they do? Do they have a website I can visit for information?

I'm not too happy with the future of the job I currently am in but it pays the bills for now.

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Scott R
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quote:
Help me work from my back
Velvet Jones has this great book out on how to do exactly that.

You should check it out, Porter!

[Smile]

(I can't believe no one's taken this angle yet...)

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ElJay
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You could also check Craigslist for a hospital bed. . . I've seen used medical equipment there for pretty reasonable prices.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Update:

I installed the shelf, so now I have my monitor suspended directly above me. That's working really well. Unfortunately, I didn't have any juice left to work on the keyboard tray.

My father happened to have a fancy goldtouch ergonomic keyboard lying around that he wasn't using, so he's shipping it off to me.

I'm actually not in much, as long as I stay horizontal. It's only when I get up and try to do anything that I start having problems.

Except for today, that is. I woke up with a horrible headache (which are quite rare for me), and it's not going away. [Frown]

BB: email me and I'll talk to you about my work. I'd rather not broadcast that to the general public.

quote:
I can't believe no one's taken this angle yet.
Well, either nobody else thought of it, or everybody else had the good class to restrain themselves. [Wink]
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Tante Shvester
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The latter.
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Tatiana
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I don't have any suggestions for working from bed that other people haven't already made, but I have a suggestion about back injury. Check with your doctor, of course, and this only works after you're able to move around again, to prevent reinjury, but inline skating has been a miracle for my back pain. It seems to exercise and strengthen all the muscles in my back and torso without injuring them. No other exercise that I've tried has done that. All of them (like yoga, stretching, running, swimming) seem to cause damage. Usually about 3 days after I do the exercise, my back starts hurting. In-line skating, though, has been a miracle. So long as I do it once a week or so, my back stays strong and doesn't hurt.

The thing that fixes the acute pain for me is anti-inflammatories like celebrex or mobic. I don't take the muscle relaxers because they make me feel wretched. The anti-inflammatories actually fix it, though, in a few days.

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mr_porteiro_head
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Great news! I just got a phone call from some nurse person in my company. Apparently, asking for money to work in my situation started some wheels turning, and she's trying to figure out what needs to be done so that I can stop having to work. It would be *soo* nice to not have to work. I'm tired all the time, and it takes about 12 hours for me to put in a full 8 hour work day.
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Tante Shvester
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Good luck with that.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
I can't believe no one's taken this angle yet.
Well, either nobody else thought of it, or everybody else had the good class to restrain themselves. [Wink]
That's us, classy all the way. [Big Grin]

mph, good luck!

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
Great news! I just got a phone call from some nurse person in my company. Apparently, asking for money to work in my situation started some wheels turning, and she's trying to figure out what needs to be done so that I can stop having to work. It would be *soo* nice to not have to work. I'm tired all the time, and it takes about 12 hours for me to put in a full 8 hour work day.

Wrote you an email Porter. Hey I hope things turn out in your favor, good on that nurse for taking the ball and running with it!
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Uprooted
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Porter, I don't have anything helpful to say either; that sucks, and I wish you the best in whatever it takes to recover and to resolve your work situation. Hope the not working thing works out!
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KarlEd
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I hope things work out for you Porter. I'll keep my fingers crossed for the "not have to work" option as long as that doesn't involve life-long pain and inability to really enjoy the 'not working'. [Wink]

(((Porter)))

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Boothby171
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Porter,

I was out on my back for 6 weeks (I had a ruptured disk 4 years ago, had a microdiscectomy, and it was acting up again last year.

I used that LAP-DESK with a laptop, and it was ABSOLUTELY THE BEST FREAKIN' THING IN THE WORLD!

I hope you feel better soon!

BTW, don't be afraid of the epidural cortisone shots--if appropriate, they can do wonders!

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Bob_Scopatz
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Porter,

I was about to HIGHLY recommend the keyboard you said is being shipped to you. It's much better for neutral positioning than the Microsoft (or knock-off) fakey-ergonomic keyboards.

I would also suggest that a trackball (especially the large Kensington ones -- "Expert Mouse") is an excellent solution if the keypad thing doesn't work for you.

of course, probably the best solution is not working at all for awhile.

I hope you can avoid surgery.

(((mph))))*

*where "(" and ")" are extremely gentle and maybe just "air" hugs.

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mr_porteiro_head
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I got the keyboard. There are some things I really don't like (since it's smaller, it's scrunched together, which makes it harder to find odd keys when not looking, especially if my hands aren't in the proper position because I was busy mousing), but it really is nice. I'll use it for a while, and if I enjoy it, I'll have my company buy one for me. [Smile]
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Bob_Scopatz
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Actually, if you really like it, you can have your company get an even better one. That particular model does not have the kind of complete adjustability of a truly ergonomic model either. it's better than the totally unmovable kinds, but not as good as split keyboards that can have each half positioned independently.

Depends on what they think what cost is worth it, but if you need a keyboard that does more than angle the two sides, then that one you have now is going to only be "better" not exactly "good" for you.

I'm intrigued by the motion sensing one. I wonder if the hands can be oriented independently and have them still work?

Anyway, good luck...again.

By the way, the GoldTouch can usually be had on eBay for less than the store-bought price of the Microsoft "Wave" keyboard. So, it's really a bargain if it does the job for you.

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JumboWumbo
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It's not that difficult a problem to solve, come on people!

You need a pool. If you don't have one, you can get them installed in a matter of months, so that's really no problem. Then you purchase one one of these. It might take some time rigging and finding an air supply, but you'll be the one reaping the rewards in the end, nay? Once you've got that hooked up, you have to find a way to mask your computer in an aquatic environment (I haven't looked into this yet). Of course, you'll also need some waterproof power chords if you don't want to be recharging your computer every time the battery dies (although, now that I think about it, this thread might come in handy right about now). You'll also want to find away to keep yourself nourished, maybe some sort of pipeline you can attach to the head portion of the suit. And that's it; your golden. The neutrality of the suit/water allows for any position you desire!

And once everything is healed, you can just freeze over your pool and skate on it!

It's foolproof.

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mr_porteiro_head
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Do you have any recommendations for an even better keyboard?
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The Rabbit
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mph, Have you found a good back surgeon? Am I correct in assuming you are still living in Utah county?

If so, I know an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spine who has an excellent reputation and will be joining a clinic and Jordan Valley hospital at the end of the month. If you're still looking for a good surgeon send me an e-mail and I'll put you in contact.

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Scott R
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See, this is why I like Hatrack...people helping people, making suggestions, going out of their way to make the world better, Tante inferring that I'm classless...

Beauty.

[Smile]

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rivka
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Rabbit, they live in Oregon these days.
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Kwea
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Porter, a massage TABLE lays down completely, with a hole in the head position what would let you view your screen. Here is a link to one that is under $200. You may have to adjust how wide the face opening is, but that is far more simple than constructing a solution from scratch.


I have 3 herniated disks in a row in my lower back, and JenniK has one that is very bad (one of mine is bad, but the other two aren't as bad), so we have been though some of this ourselves. I hope you get some relief soon.

Talk to someone about replacement disks rather than having anything fused. I have a friend who had this done in his upper spine, which is far harder to do and is more dangerous, and he loves the results.

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Tante Shvester
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
Tante inferring that I'm classless...

And shouldn't we all be striving for a classless society?

You can lead the way!

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katharina
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*wrinkles nose* Good grief.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Tante Shvester:
quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
Tante inferring that I'm classless...

And shouldn't we all be striving for a classless society?

You can lead the way!

LOL You are in rare form today Tante!
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Telperion the Silver
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Yikes! That totally sucks!
*hugs*
Feel better Porter!!
Sorry I don't have anything I can really do for you.

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Ela
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quote:
Originally posted by Boothby171:
BTW, don't be afraid of the epidural cortisone shots--if appropriate, they can do wonders!

I second that.

Also, find out as much as you can before you go into surgery. Some studies have shown that some people with ruptured disks usually recover whether or not they have surgery. I emailed you an article about it.

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