We covered ideal desk posture when using a desktop computer in a previous post, but due to low prices and an increase in home working, laptops are everywhere and using them can lead to stresses and strains on the body. The problem with laptops are that they are designed with portability in mind, rather than what’s good for your neck, back and wrists. Common problems are that if the screen is at the correct height, then the keyboard is too high, and if the keyboard is positioned correctly, then the screen is too low and too close. Also laptop touch pads tend to place strain on the forearms, hands and wrists.
If you use your laptop daily, paying attention to how you set it up will go a long way to easing and/or preventing neck pain, back pain, and wrist and hand pain. Here are our tips and advice.
Place the screen at eye level
- Set your laptop height and screen angle so you can easily view the screen without bending or rotating your neck and place around an arms length in front of you. To achieve this normally requires elevating the laptop a few inches above your desk, which you can do by placing it on a laptop stand or thick book.
- Avoid propping your laptop on top of your lap (ironic we know!) as this requires you to hunch or slouch down to see the screen. If this is unavoidable, such as working while on a train, you can raise the laptop slightly by placing it on top of your computer case or briefcase.
use a separate keyboard and mouse
- Using an external full sized keyboard will enable you to elevate the screen at a height that allows your shoulders and arms to be in a relaxed position taking strain off your neck and back, and your elbows at a 90 degree angle when typing, reducing strain on hands and wrists.
- Be kind to your hands and wrists by using an independent mouse close to your body, rather than the pad incorporated into your laptop.
- If you have already developed wrist pain you may benefit from alternating between 2 or 3 different models of mouse. This varies to positioning of your wrist reducing the strain.
Adjust your chair
- Use an adjustable chair to adopt a good sitting posture with lower back support, and ensure that other desk equipment is within easy reach.
Use a foot rest
- Your knees should be angled at about the level of your hips or slightly lower. If your hips are too high this can place excess stress on your lower back.
Take regular breaks
- Try to take short breaks every 30-40 minutes and do some simple stretches at your desk, including your neck, shoulders, arms and legs.
- Get up and move around every 1-2 hours as this reduces the strain on your muscles and joints. Set an alarm to remind you, or use an app such as the StandApp for Apple products and Take-a-Break for Android devices.
- If you regularly transport your laptop between different places, such as work and home, consider purchasing duplicate peripheral components such as power cables, and other accessories thus reducing the weight of your bag.
- Use a dual strapped back pack laptop case rather than a shoulder style bag, that places all the strain over one shoulder.
Vodafone have produced this great little animated film which nicely summarises the points outlined in this post.
Not all of the above tips will always be practical, but by trying to optimise the position in which you use your laptop will ultimately help to reduce pain related to poor posture.
For further information or advice from our chiropractor please contact us on 01244 880186 or email us by clicking here.