If you normally use a laptop for business or personal purposes, you may be surprised to learn how you use this portable device can determine how much stress is placed on your neck and back. Luckily, there are some things you can do to ergonomically set up your laptop in a way that’s good for your spine and its various parts. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind.
Yes, it’s called a “laptop,” but actually using your laptop on your lap requires an excessive forward-leaning motion that can overstress your neck and upper spine. If you do need to perch your laptop on your lap, place it on a briefcase or computer bag so it’s elevated more.
For times when you’re using your laptop while it’s perched on a desk or table, position the screen so you can view it without having to rotate or bend your neck. Also, place it on a stable surface and adjust it so your eyes naturally focus on the top third of the screen.
If you normally use your laptop for long periods, consider using some attachable laptop accessories to make your setup more ergonomic and spine friendly. There are two options to consider:
• An external keyboard and mouse – This allows you to properly position your laptop more easily
• An external monitor – The monitor can be placed at eye level so you can position your laptop keyboard in a way that lets you relax your shoulders and arms
Standard laptop screens range in size from 14 to 16 inches. If you currently have a smaller screen, you may find yourself hunching forward when eyestrain sets in. If you regularly do this, either consider a new laptop with a bigger screen or increase the font size.
When sitting in a chair to use your laptop, you should have your feet flat on the floor with your knees at hip level. If you’re not getting this alignment right while still being able to keep your feet on the floor, support your feet with a step or block to keep your lumbar (lower) spine in a neutral position that eases spinal stress.
Most office chairs can become ergonomic if you use a rolled-up towel or lumbar support cushion to maintain the natural curvature of your spine. Also, remember to sit back in your chair so your ears are always above your shoulders. Another option is to invest in an ergonomic chair that already has features like a curved back and an attached cushion that supports your neck.
Use your phone to remind you to take regular breaks throughout your day as you use your laptop. This will give you a chance to stretch your spine-supporting muscles and joints and get your blood flowing. For times when you’re not able to walk away from your laptop, take a moment to do some simple neck and lower back stretches at your desk.
Sitting all day at work, whether or not a laptop is involved, isn’t good for your spine. Sitting for long periods can put extra pressure on the spine, which can increase stiffness, pain, and the likelihood of developing long-term issues that may require medical treatment such as alternatives to spinal fusion surgery. Santa Monica workers who use laptops all day should spend a few hours each day using their computers from a standing position. To achieve this goal, you would need either a separate keyboard/mouse and a multilevel deck configuration or a specially designed sit-to-stand desktop.
If you normally lug your laptop back and forth to work with its plug and other accessories, ease this extra burden on your spine by getting a second set of laptop accessories so you can leave them at work. And if you use a backpack to transport your laptop, opt for one with dual padded straps so you’re not putting too much extra weight on one shoulder.
While using your laptop, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in various tasks that you’re not being too mindful of your posture. Since this isn’t good for your spine, use technology to your advantage by using:
If you need more advice on how to set up ergonomic options in your work environment, consult with a Santa Monica spine surgeon. The spine health experts at The Spine Institute are authorities on how to keep your back and neck healthy, and that includes making sure your work setup promotes good posture and supports your spine. Call one of our friendly representatives at 310-828-7757 today to schedule a consultation.