The Ergonomics of Laptops
Laptops are becoming more popular than ever as an easy way to keep one's documents, games, personal information, music, and many other things convenient. However, as more and more people ditch their desktop in favor of a lighter laptop, there are important ergonomic safety considerations that still need to be considered no matter what style of computer you use. You may wish to shrug these away, but disregarding proper posture will lead to painful problems in the future! Here's some quick tips to help keep you healthy while using your laptop, wherever you may be:
1.) Position yourself correctly:
No matter who you are, it's important to realize that it's easy for anyone to develop bad habits when it comes to how you sit in front of the computer. Many men tend to sit back in their chairs, further away from the computer, often slouching, while women tend to sit forward on the edge of their seats, often hunching forward. (2) Neither posture is helpful for the spine or for the arms and wrists over the course of time, and one of the immediate results is that slouching often reduces proper oxygen flow in the body, limiting proper blood flow and causing various part of the body to become tired or worn-down prematurely.
With laptops, it is especially easier to do this, as laptops bring the keyboard and the screen closer together, thus making it easier to strain your hands or eyes. If you can, sit back all the way in the chair, and position the chair at a proper distance from your laptop. Sit up straight and adjust the monitor/panel of your laptop correctly - you shouldn't have to move your neck to view the whole screen. Let your eyes do the work, rather than your neck. If anything hurts or aches, even just a bit, adjust your posture so that this no longer happens. Even if it seems minor at the time, small things can build up over time, causing painful or severe tendon or nerve deterioration. If any symptoms seem severe, or exasperated by longer periods at the keyboard, consider seeing your physician or chiropractor to diagnose any physical conditions you may have, and determine a way to remedy them.
2.) Position your equipment correctly:
This goes along with #1. Once you've properly positioned yourself to your desk, take a moment to position your laptop, mouse, and other computer implements correctly. If you find yourself looking back and forth from a nearby monitor or across the screen of a larger laptop monitor and needing to turn your head to do so, consider positioning the monitor so that it lies more in your field of view. Laptops naturally are set up such that we tend to look down at them, more than we would a normal computer. Over time, looking down at the laptop screen for long periods of time can lead to neck and shoulder fatigue, stress, or injury. If possible, find a way to set up your desk/laptop so that the first 1-2 inches of the screen are visible when looking straight out, sitting up straight in your seat. Not only will this make it easier on your neck, but it will bring better posture overall. (1)
If need be, purchase special ergonomic equipment for your work or home office if you plan to spend long periods of time in front of your laptop. Special back-supporting chairs, arm/wrist rests, screen magnifiers, or ergonomic mice can all significantly help reduce body stress if used properly. The most important thing is to listen to your body, and adjust your posture and equipment correctly. If possible, place your laptop or external keyboard flat or either with a slight "downhill" tilt (keyboard pointing down and away from you, such that the spacebar is higher than the F1-F12 keys). (2) This relaxes the hands, bringing a more natural position to your wrists and causing less strain. If you find yourself tending towards a behavior that tends to result in pain or problems over time, consider adjusting your equipment as well as your posture. You'll be glad you did!
3.) Take frequent breaks:
It's easy, while involved in something on the computer, to go for hours without really standing up, stretching, and taking a break. If you have poor posture, sitting in it for an extended period of time only amplifies the damage it does. Try to make it your goal to get up, stretch, and look away from the screen - focus on things at different distances away - about once every 20-30 minutes while using your laptop. Then, when you sit down to begin working again, be sure you have proper posture and that you and your equipment are still positioned correctly. It may seem unnecessary, but over time, it can save you years of back, shoulder, wrist and arm pain from osteo-arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other joint/muscle debilitating diseases.
Additionally when using the computer for a long amount of time, make sure to drink enough water! This is one thing that is overlooked quite frequently, especially among laptop users. Studies have shown that people staring at a computer screen tend to blink significantly less often than those not engaged in computer activities. What does this mean for you? Essentially, less blinking means your eyes are less well-lubricated, resulting in them feeling dry, strained, or hurting after longer periods of time without adequate water intake. In turn, this can lead to headaches, photophobia (eye/head irritation/discomfort from lights), and possibly even migraines, depending on the person. You wouldn't expect to go outside and work for long periods of time doing physical labor without getting something to drink, so why work at the computer for long hours without drinking? Keep a glass of water nearby, and drink frequently to leave your eyes refreshed and head clear.
4.) Carry your laptop properly:
It may seem silly, but many people these days go out and spend a lot of time and money buying a decent laptop, but then spend little money or time investing in a good way to carry it around. Many who do purchase a carrying case or laptop shoulder bag overstuff it with other things, weighing it down, and causing repetitive shoulder stress and strain. The bottom line: Spend the time and money to find a laptop carrying case that will work for you, and then use it properly! Don't stuff heavy, unnecessary accessories or other items into it, and utilize the carrying handles and straps properly. If you need to carry your shoulder laptop bag for long periods of time, think about alternatives to leaving it on your shoulder, particularly if your laptop is weighty. Instead, consider carrying it by hand with carrying handles, or even setting it down for a bit if you are stationery. Doing this will help avoid chronic shoulder pain and upper back stress caused by long periods of imbalanced weighting.
Following these basic safety tips and precautions isn't difficult, it just takes dedication. Stick with treating your body right while using computers in the short run, and your body will thank you over the long run!
(1): Daniels, Charles F. "Computer Ergonomics" Available online:http://www.klis.com/computers+health/
(2): Rothberg, Deborah. ?The Perils of PC Posture?. Available online: http: news.yahoo.com s zd 20060602 tc_zd 179836< p>
Joshua Gaebel is a laptop/computing enthusiast and holds a degree in Computing & Software Systems. For more information on discount laptops, laptop news and reviews, and general laptop tips, visit http://www.laptopinfo.net
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