Laptops: How to Avoid Back, Neck & Upper Limb Pain

The Perils of Computer Use Part 2  – The Laptop Computer

Stuart Walker, Osteopath

Many of our patients here at Teddington Osteopaths use a laptop without thinking about how damaging it may be to their upper back and neck. We are seeing increasing numbers of neck, shoulder and upper limb problems that are being caused, in large part, by laptop use.  So what can you do to limit these issues?

skeleton bad posture laptop

The Carry

Laptops and their associated paraphernalia (chargers, portable drives etc) can all add up to a weighty bag. Often these bags have a single strap. They also have pockets waiting to be filled…think about:

  • Taking as much out of the bag as possible. Take only what you need.
  • Use a wheeled case or a 2 strap rucksack.
  • Can you leave the laptop at home or work and use a tablet, memory stick or virtual portal (cloud computing) when mobile?

The Occasional User

In their initial design brief laptops were designed for use for periods of 30 minutes only, not 8 or 9 hours plus! As a brief user problems are minimised – bear in mind however that ‘brief’ use can drag on…..try:

  • Sitting in a comfortable upright chair or slightly reclined position. Prop your feet up to maintain a good thigh-trunk angle and allow your wrists to be straight. Use a rolled up towel for low back support.
  • Use an empty ring binder with the thick edge towards the knees to create a good wrist angle and increase the screen height.
  • Don’t use a laptop balanced on a cushion – it may block the exhaust fan and overheat the computer.

The Frequent User

Many of us fall into this category, particularly with increased home-working and hot-desking. Some companies do not provide desktops…the following are highly recommended to our patients:

  • Most importantly get that screen up! The top of the screen should be level with the eyes or just below. This can be achieved by using a docking station if your company provides one or you’re willing to buy one.
  • If you don’t have a docking station then try this low-tech, cheaper option; obtain a separate keyboard and mouse, plug these in, then place the laptop up on some books or reams of paper to get the required height.
  • Once you’ve got the screen up higher, follow the guidelines below to get the best work station set-up

As always, feel free to call/email/pop in if you need any further advice or help. Happy computing!



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