How To Set Up Your Laptop To Save Your Health

The Laptop Hunch is the latest posture problem among computer users. While desktop computers have been perfected to provide spine-friendly ergonomics, it is up to the laptop user to set up their portable PC in a way that doesn't cause short-term pain and long-term damage. 

The three main problems caused by excessive use of a badly set up computer are RSI (repetitive stain injury, usually in the wrists), Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD), and Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

Sadly, laptops are not designed with your body's needs in mind. Their design is focused on portability, compact size and weighing as little as possible. This means that laptop keyboards can be cramped and their small screens can restrict to how far away you can place them. If you have a choice, use a desktop computer for most of your work and save the laptop for when you're on the move.

If your main computer is a laptop, there are ways to prevent injury and strain to your body.  First, understand that despite its misleading name, placing your laptop in your lap is the worst way to use it. Here are directions for optimizing the position of your laptop for extensive use:

  • Set your laptop on a flat surface so that the screen can be viewed without bending your neck. You may need to use a laptop pedestal to achieve this, or a couple of books can work as a haphazard substitute. 
  • Ideally, if you are using your laptop for long periods at your desk, attach an additional keyboard and mouse to the USB ports so you can raise the laptop high and keep your keyboard low, thus saving your wrists and elbows from RSI.
  • When typing, your shoulders should be relaxed with your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle and arms by your sides. If this isn't the case, adjust your chair height, position of your laptop or treat yourself to a spiffy new desk.
  • As with using a desktop computer, it's important that your chair provides proper lumbar support for your back. Invest in a decent office chair that is ergonomic and fully adjustable. 

To avoid RSI  in the wrist, place the keyboard directly in front of you and not so far away that you need to extend your arms to reach it. If you are using an external mouse instead of the track pad, it should be placed adjacent to the keyboard and on the same level. Aim to keep your wrists "flat", and invest in "wrist supports" for your desk that give a negative tilt to your hands when typing.


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