While laptops allow us to do more work in more places their use also puts us at greater risk for injury. Because the keyboard and screen are attached there is no perfect way to work safely on a laptop. The best we can do is minimize certain risks. Typically the user assumes an awkward wrist posture, pressure directly on their carpal tunnel, a flexed neck, and rounded shoulders. It is never a good idea to work while on your bed or couch. Move to a table that is not too high. Sit close in your chair. When you look at your screen try to bend your head down as little as possible . Keep your ears over your shoulders. Using an external keyboard and mouse can help you sit up with good posture decreasing risk for injury. Use of the small touchpad in the middle of the laptop often increases neck/shoulder muscle use, rounded shoulders, and slouching, particularly when combined with looking down at the screen.
- If a laptop is used at your desk the best option is to plug it into a docking station and use a separate keyboard, mouse, and monitor. This is the best option for long term laptop use. That will allow you to use proper positioning. Use a keyboard tray if necessary to ensure the keyboard, mouse, and monitor are at the correct height.
- If you don’t have access to a docking station, the next best option is to place the laptop on a laptop stand and use an external keyboard and mouse. If you can’t use a stand you can use books under the laptop.
- If not using external keyboard, use a 3-ring binder under the computer. While typing do not rest your hands on the hard laptop surface (places pressure on your carpal tunnel.) The slight angle of the binder will allow you to keep the wrist straight while you type reducing the risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and overuse of the forearm muscles.
- While it is always best, if you have ever had cubital tunnel syndrome or pinched nerves around the elbow it is imperative to raise your chair height so your elbows are not bent more than 90 degrees.
- If you raise the chair be sure to use a footrest or phone book under your feet to reduce strain on your back.
The small size of the keyboard also may increase twisting of the wrist outward. An adjustable angle external keyboard such as the Goldtouch Go! Travel Keyboard can correct this. Another good option for users whose wrists do not bend outward is the Matias Foldable keyboard.
Due to the inability to be in a truly ergonomic position with laptop use it is even more important to take breaks and change position often.
Carrying a laptop can also create strain. This is especially troublesome if you ever neck discomfort, headaches, or shoulder problems. Having the laptop hanging off of one shoulder places repeated undue stresses there. If you travel much with your computer consider a rolling laptop bag.