Laptops are wonderful pieces of technology: they allow us to work from virtually anywhere, without compromising computing power or quality of work. But unfortunately, this freedom can also lead to the development of chronic pain, especially in the neck, back, shoulders, and wrists.
Since many people don't use their laptop at an ergonomically-adjusted desk, they compromise posture when working, which can greatly increase the chances of developing chronic pain. In order to prevent pain without having to give up the freedom of using a laptop, following are 5 simple laptop adjustment tips to keep in mind the next time you get to work.
Use a Separate Mouse
Anyone who has used a laptop for an extended period of time can tell you how painful it can be to rely on the track pad alone to move the cursor. Although convenient, the placement of the track pad forces users to move their wrist and fingers into awkward positions, which over time can lead to chronic pain. By using a separate mouse, you will be better able to maintain a proper ergonomic position in your wrist and fingers.
Keep the Screen at or near Eye Level
Most laptop users place their computers on, you guessed it, their laps. The problem here is that, in this position, the screen is down well below eye level, in turn requiring users to tilt their heads and slouch their shoulders. This posture places excessive strain on muscles in the back, neck, and shoulders. To prevent chronic pain from developing, keep your laptop at or near eye level at all times; you may need to use a stand on your desk that elevates the laptop to an optimal viewing level.
Work at a Desk
It can be tempting to sit on the couch or in a comfortable chair while working on your laptop, but this position is terrible for your posture. When seated in this position, people tend to curl their backs, slouch their shoulders, and bend their necks forward and down. It doesn't take an expert to understand that maintaining this position for a long while places stress on the muscles in your back, neck, and shoulders. Instead, try to work at a desk as much as possible and maintain the same healthy ergonomic position you would when working at a desktop computer.
Use an External Keyboard
It may seem like an odd thing to do since laptops have them built in, but using a separate keyboard can actually do wonders in preventing pain in your wrist and fingers. The problem with laptop keyboards is they are usually condensed into a smaller space, which leads to an odd placement of the keys. Consequently, users are forced to adjust their typing position, in turn leading to additional strain on the fingers and wrists. Instead, use an external keyboard as often as possible when you plan on typing for a long period of time.
No matter how perfect your posture is, working in a seated position places stress on your entire body. Be sure to get up out of your chair every couple of hours and walk around the room-this will get blood flowing throughout your body and prevent muscles from tensing up. Before sitting back down for work, don't forget to perform a few stretches, giving special attention to your neck, wrists, shoulders, and lower back.
The best way to avoid chronic pain is to listen to your body. The good thing about pain is it lets you know when it's starting to develop, so pay attention to any minor aches or strains you feel throughout the day. If at any point you feel pain arising, take a break-the momentary lapse in workflow is well worth the pain you will avoid in the long run.
Dr. Marc Browner is a Co-owner and practicing chiropractor at Windmill Health Center in Weston, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.