A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Many disabilities or long-term health conditions are accompanied by physical pain or discomfort, which can make studying difficult. Pain can feel isolating or embarrassing, however it doesn’t have to be. This advice wont work for everyone and I suggest experimenting with different strategies, but hopefully something here puts you on the right track, and makes studying a little easier!
The easiest first step to take is to communicate with your lecturer or supervisor, as well as the University disability services if it’s a long-term issue. Make sure they know so if it becomes an issue later with attendance or assessment you can work around it together, as well as for day to day accommodations. The University Fenestra Disability Centre has a lot more information and is an excellent first port of call!
It can be useful to have a few things always in your bag, such as any medication you use, a heat pack, and maybe something nice like a chocolate bar or tea bag. Keeping them in a small pouch in your bag means that it can be easily transferred and makes it harder to forget!
Longer term, it’s important to pace your work so as not to exhaust yourself, as this can make pain worse.
Recording lectures can be an excellent way to review them later, and make sure you don’t miss anything. If you’re unable to attend a lecture due to pain, you can also ask a friend or the lecturer to record it for you, so you can review it at home.
Remote working (such as google docs) can also be useful, as it lowers the amount of stuff you have to carry with you day to day (no laptop needed!), and can also make group work easier.
On a more physical note, electronic pain management devices such as TENS machines or heat pads can also be very useful, however you should check with your health provider before using these.
Building on the previous point, heat pads and a warm working environment can both help to reduce pain. Heat pads come in both electric and microwaveable forms, and can be found online for a reasonable price. If you use a microwaveable one, communicate with your faculty if there’s a microwave you can use.
Studying position can also make a large difference, make sure that your desk is at the correct height and that your chair supports your back and knees properly- see the diagram below for a suggested desk position. Laptop stands can be a useful way to reduce neck strain, as well as chair back supports, both of which can be found online. If you find the chair you study in uncomfortable, pillows or blankets can help to fit it to you. Different studying positions can also help, as can moving frequently to prevent cramping.