Keep your work area "ADJUSTABLE".
Hand, neck and back problems are something a lot of quilters have to deal with. When these evil little things take your hobby to a back burner it's a sad thing. I've not been working on much the past few weeks due to problems with my hands and a few days ago got a shot in my wrist and hopefully this will help.
I've tried to learn all I can about setting up an ergonomic work area and doing what I can to help the strain on backs and arms. I'm short so I don't keep my foot pedal on the floor, it's on a office style foot rest which raises it up about 2.5 - 3 inches. That helps! I got the side table to fit my machine (clear plastic on adjustable legs) and that helped with the stress in my arms, plus it makes sewing a lot better too. I use an office chair with arms, but I know folks who don't like arms, but it helps me during those little mini breaks and if you have iffy knees it also helps you get out of the chair if you sat there too long - no we don't do that. All my tables, except for my cutting table are adjustable and I have them set for short person, but still needed the foot rest for my pedal due to the height of the machine and I like to be able to look down on my work when I'm doing free motion. That's a point too. I don't always keep the chair the same height. When I'm doing piece work I can sit a little lower cause I don't need to look down on the fabric area. When it's time to quilt thou I just raise up the chair and off I go. You can also give your machine a slight tilt towards you and this helps if you lean over the machine.
Another thing that has helped with my shoulders is a little goodie I got at the last quilt show that makes free motion so much easier I was shocked. I tried to find a link to this but haven't yet, but it's Quilt Sew Easy from Heavenly Notions and is the best sewing goodie I own. There were 2 in the package and they are a wonder. I'd tried using nubby gloves to move my fabric and rubber finger tips, but nothing I'd tried could touch the ease of this product. It's made of plastic and is horseshoe shaped. The lady I got it from told me to think of it as something that just came out of the oven and just barely touch the 2 easy to hold handles and not push down on the fabric - WOW it glides. Can't say enough good about this product. They also have another product which is 2 seperate pads to use under your finger tips. I've read the same excitement about these as I've had with the round unit.
Another thing that escapes me is forgetting to get up and move about and stretch. A kitchen timer which I keep on the sewing table. You would be amazed at how fast 30 min. goes by.
I've got lots of Holiday stuff to do and now that the home decorating project is almost done (still have pillows and a table runner to make) I can get back to the fun projects.