Most people today use computers – whether for work, home use or both – and for the last few years laptops have now become more popular than desktop computers. Initially, laptops were used by workers who needed access to the computer while out of the office or on the go, but they are now also used by people at home as their main computer. And it is no surprise that this increase in laptop sales has coincided with an increase in the amount of people suffering from repetitive strain injury (RSI) due to the computers design.
Bad posture when working incorrectly seated or positioned can lead to other, more general, back, head and neck aches and pains. A leading London ENT Consultant Surgeon, Mr. Mike Dilkes of the London Laser Clinic commented “We talk to people about their posture when working at a computer quite often, as we frequently see patients with unexplained head and neck pain. From time to time it turns out to be a non ENT related problem such as their posture and the way they sit at their desk”.
When using a laptop, because it is impossible to adjust the screen height and keyboard of a laptop separately from each other, it is hard to find a comfortable position to sit in. With a normal desktop computer it is advisable to sit at a desk with the monitor an arms length away and the keyboard a few inches away form you, but this is not possible with a laptop. Instead, people tend to sit with the laptop too far in away from them in order to keep the screen back a bit, but in turn stretching their arms to use the keyboard which will hurt the arms after a while. People also tend to rest their wrists on the keyboards hard surface which can place pressure on the wrists and also hurt the arms and shoulders. The positioning of the screen and keyboard can also lead to users sitting with their head too far forward which will strain the neck and shoulders. For prolonged periods of use it is therefore a good idea to use either a monitor or keyboard with your laptop to avoid these problems.
There are easy measures that can be taken in order to avoid RSI or other problems when using a laptop. It is a good idea to place the laptop on a stable base such as a table to provide support for your arms rather than on your lap. However, make sure the desk or table isn’t too high such as a kitchen table as this will result in you having to raise your arms up higher than normal which will itself cause pain. Laptop desks are also a good idea and are often provided in places where business people are expected to be using their laptops, such as serviced offices or hotels. These can also be folded and stored in laptop cases and are good for providing the space to connect an external mouse. Where you sit will also have a big impact as slouching over the laptop while sitting in the sofa can cause back pains and even a bad back if left untreated over long periods. It is therefore a good idea to sit in a chair with proper back support to avoid this problem. When in the office, docking stations are a great way to avoid discomfort and enable you to connect the laptop up to an external keyboard and mouse or a monitor.
Although most people, as the name suggests, sit with a laptop on their knees and cause themselves pain, no one ever really thinks of doing anything about it especially as the pain usually leaves us when we are finished on the computer. However, if left untreated it can cause RSI and other problems particularly with the neck, back and shoulders. But by following the advice above as well as taking regular breaks to avoid tension in the upper body, it is easy to avoid these problems.