Exercises for Graphic Artists
By Andrew Kwan
As a working artist and graphic designer, I spend most days at my computer and drawing table. While it’s not as hazardous a job as say—working on an oil rig or playing football in the NFL, being a professional artist has its own risks and effects on the human body.
For much of 2020 and 2021, I struggled with intense and debilitating injuries to my wrist and back that no amount of ice and rest seemed to fix. Once I gained a better understanding of my own body mechanics and bad habits during work hours, the road to recovery was simple!
The act of using my arm, hand and wrist to draw, paint, type and use a mouse opens me up to injury do to overuse. At the same time, if I’m sitting all day while working, I am also putting stress on my lower spine and the soft tissues around my lower back and pelvis. This will also create opportunity for injury caused by underuse and inactivity. These are also common risks to office workers. Since there are so many people who fall into these types of work habits, it can be easy to dismiss aches and pains we develop as normal, trivial or nothing to worry about.
By overusing and underusing parts of our bodies without regular care and maintenance, muscles become tight and stiff. The tighter they become, the more likely they are to sustain injuries causing painful spasms and cramps or chronic conditions like Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, Tendonitis or Tendinosis.
While we all know that our bodies develop issues as we grow older and as time goes on, the frequency of workers pulling long hours and overtime increases the risk of developing chronic, long-lasting problems a lot earlier in life. Taking frequent breaks and giving your body rest from what seems like mundane, low-energy activity at the work table is incredibly important.
When beginning these exercises after an injury, we have to be mindful of giving ourselves enough time to properly rest and ease into becoming active again. During the rest phase of our recovery, our bodies are mending themselves, but the decrease of regular activity will also cause loss of strength. If we rest for a couple weeks and find that our pain has subsided, diving into regular, everyday activity or an intense training regiment immediately, will open you up to re-injuring yourself. So, be sure to start slow and ramp up your activity levels at a comfortable pace!
Creating a regular fitness routine to re-strengthen the areas at risk and keep them loose and flexible makes a big difference. To get started on making a positive change to your work habits, try out some of these easy stretches and exercises that are convenient and effective to fit into a busy schedule, that you can do anywhere and anytime!
- Dumbbell Wrist Curl
- Dumbbell Reverse Curl
- Wrist Flexion/Extension
- Wrist Radial/Ulnar Deviation
- Finger Extension with Thumb Abduction with Rubber Band
- Internal Rotation Stretch with Stick
- Shoulder External Rotation with Dowel
- Unilateral Pectoralis Stretch
- Shoulder Shrugs
- Neck Angle Up/Down
- Child’s Pose
- Side Bend
- Lumbar Alternating Leg Quadruped
- Lower Trunk Rotation
- Hip Flexor Stretch
About Andrew Kwan
Andrew Sebastian Kwan is a Canadian illustrator and writer. He graduated from Max the Mutt College of Animation and Design in Toronto, Canada with a Diploma for Illustration in Sequential Art. Andrew wrote and illustrated his first creator owned comic book series, GEL, in 2017 and illustrated the graphic novel, THE GRAVEYARD WARS, with Ablaze Publishing in 2020. Andrew also enjoys creating alternative movie posters and his design for Get Out was featured in the New York Times.
Reminder: Please consult your physician or health professional before engaging in any physical activity and stop if you experience pain or discomfort.