The Plum Chronicles: Vogue Writer's Back Pain Is More Expensive Than Yours

When someone told me that full-time oblivious person Plum Sykes had a piece in Vogue on the back pain that comes from sitting and writing all day, I thought: Oh! Something with application to the rest of us! Sadly, no.

"Last spring, standing in the Mayfair atelier of designer Matthew Williamson..." begins the odyssey. Our heroine, you see, is being fitted for a custom gown for the Met Costume Institute Ball. But there's trouble: "Matthew declared that I had a great body and could show it. I said I was 38 and even if my body was passable, my face was far too old to be seen attached to it half naked in public." They compromise on a seemingly demure jersey gown with a daringly open back, which happens to be totally on-trend, even though "wearing a backless dress is demanding. It requires the right back - neither too fleshy nor too bony." A chemical peel is apparently a good idea, too.

Plum has such a back, which leads to (shocker!) her feeling "smug." You see, Plum's back is the product of much sturm, drang, and money. It's only become "bareable" after years of intense pain. The pain, she explains, came on when she was penning Bergdorf Blondes, and a novel and a baby later, was only more excrutiating. Hypnosis, acupuncture, massage, reflexology, chiropractors, osteopaths, healers and cortisone injections provide only temporary relief, and finally a physical therapist tells her that she's simply going to have to strengthen her back muscles, which are too thin to support her height. She relates something most of us know all too well:

He told me that the biggest danger for me was writing at a computer. Over time, sitting for long stretches weakens your core - the muscles that should hold you upright - and leads to far too much pressure on your back muscles.

Given that I'm sitting as I write, and most of you are probably currently sitting in the service of some sitting-centric occupation as you read, this is an issue we can all stand to consider. So, not surprisingly, I sat up a little straighter - putting pressure on my atrophied muscles, of course - to read the next bit. Well, here is how Plum saved her back:

With my life split between New York and London, I went to private (Pilates) lessons at re:AB in NoHo. I had one-on-one lessons with Madonna's Pilates instructor in London...I do Pilates sessions twice a week and ride my horse twice a week (horse riding is excellent for strengthening the core, legs, and arms.) I never sit at the computer for more than 30 minutes without standing up and stretching. I have hired an assistant who types while I dictate. It all costs a fortune, but it's still cheaper (slightly) to be well than sick.

Well, the stretching thing I can do. Thanks, Plum!

The Flip Side [Vogue]