Getting the most from your laptop

Laptops are great for getting work done on the move. Unfortunately, the compact design of laptops, which makes them so great for working on the move, can also encourage poor posture. Some of the more common conditions that may be associated with poor laptop posture include:

  • Repetitive strain injury
  • Neck ache
  • Back problems
  • Shoulder pain

Increasingly, people are using laptops to get work done outside of the office and so we have developed a series of tips to help you make sure your laptop posture is the best it can possibly be.

Visual display height:

The top of the visual display of a laptop should be in line with your eyes. In order to get the laptop into this position, we recommend you get a laptop stand. Laptop stands are normally made of a lightweight metal or plastic composite that unfolds to form a simple angled stand that can support the weight of the laptop. If you cannot afford a laptop stand you could use several thick books to get the laptop to the desired level (make sure the laptop will not slip off them!). Please note that you will only be able to use an elevated laptop, if you have a separate portable keyboard and mouse that can be positioned at desk level. Your keyboard and mouse should ideally be positioned so that you can type and move the mouse, whilst keeping your wrist and fingers relatively straight.

Size of visual display:

When getting a laptop, it is worth thinking about the size of the visual display. The visual display should be big enough so that you don’t have to strain your neck to be able to see the screen.

Laptop positioning:

Making sure the laptop is positioned directly in front of you will help avoid excessive twisting of your body during typing. As a general rule, try to position yourself so that you can keep your arm at the side of your body with the elbows bent at 90 degrees and the wrists and fingers in a neutral position (ie not bent too much in any direction). If you are sitting in a chair with arms, it is very important to make sure the arm rests are not preventing you from getting your arms in the correct position for the laptop.

Use a document holder:

You will often need to refer to paperwork during typing. If the paper is left on the desk, you can often find yourself bending your neck forwards for long periods of time, which can lead to neck ache. One way to avoid this is to use a document holder. Document holders are designed to hold documents in an optimal position for copy typing. Some document holders will mount to the left or right side of the laptop screen, which allows you to keep the documents at eye level and reduces clutter on the desks.

Using a laptop on other surfaces:

If you do need to put the laptop on another surface use friction pads to keep it in position. You should be able to buy friction pads from any of the main stores that sell laptops.

Moving the laptop:

Laptops and accessories can get heavy and so it is important to carry laptops correctly. Most people tend to use laptop bags which they wear over one shoulder. A number of therapists however, recommend that you get a laptop bag that goes over both shoulders with wide padded straps and good chest support. By wearing the laptop over both shoulders you will distribute the weight more evenly. If you are likely to be spending lots of time moving the laptop around, you need to think very carefully about the weight of the laptop before you buy it. It is worth reducing the number of laptop peripherals that you carry in your laptop bag to a minimum.

Take regular breaks:

As with all activities, it is worth taking regular breaks from using the laptop. We often recommend that people have a quick walk around and stretch of the shoulder and neck muscles during the break.