Laptops were designed for portability and convenience, not for ergonomics. According to our 2005 RSI survey, a number of our injured grads developed problems while using laptops.
From MIT's Adaptive Technology for Information and Computing (ATIC) lab:
"Detachable keyboards are a fundamental requirement for an ergonomically acceptable workstation. Laptop computer screens are also typically smaller and of lesser quality than stand alone monitors. Many are more prone to glare, and adjusting the screen to an optimal position is often not possible without moving the keyboard to an unacceptable position for typing. The fact that a laptop keyboard and monitor do not adjust independently of one another forces a user to choose between comfortable hand/wrist or head/neck posture. This puts the laptop user into awkward or unhealthy postures which may lead to short- and/or long-term discomfort or injury.
In addition, transporting a laptop can present another strain on our bodies. The American Medical Association recommends that no more than 15% of a person's body weight should be carried or strapped on for transport. Add the laptop weight to other items you are carrying around and calculate the percentage of your weight you are hauling!"
If you use a laptop on a regular basis, use these tips to mimic a desktop set up:
- Use an external keyboard and pointing device. Make sure that they are placed low enough that you can relax your shoulders and keep your forearms horizontal while typing.
- Place the laptop on something so that it is high enough to be seen without twisting or craning your neck.
- Sit in a decent chair to maintain proper posture.
- As always, take frequent breaks.
Using a laptop while traveling, or in a temporary location:
- Carry your laptop in a sturdy backpack or rolling suitcase. Minimize non-essential accessories to save your back while transporting it.
- Avoid high tables if you do not have an external keyboard. If you can't find a low surface, use an armless chair and place the laptop on your knees or on a book or pillow.
- Be particularly careful about your posture. Don't rest your wrists, or twist them to reach keys: use whole hand and arm movements. Don't hunch down or bend your neck to see the keyboard.