Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Laptop Health

Now that the new year is in full swing it’s time to recognize that this new decade will soon be designated as the decade of the laptop computer.  Everywhere you look, whether it is in an airport, office building or your local coffee shop you will find a good percentage of people on a laptop computer.  Laptops are great for everything we do; increasing connectivity and productivity.  It is this need for constant contact that leads us to use these devices for prolonged periods of time and often in awkward positions.
As we spend multiple hours on our computers we set ourselves up for repetitive motion injuries. Our ligaments and joints develop inflammation when they are held in awkward positions for prolonged periods of time.  Concurrently our muscles must constantly be active to hold these positions leading to fatigue and breakdown.
 When you talk to any ergonomist they will teach you that for proper computer set up the monitor should be 18-24 inches from your head and slightly below eye level.  Your keyboard on the other hand should be positioned so your elbows can be bent to 90 degrees and your wrists in a neutral position (not bent either direction).  Now if you look at your laptop what do you see?  Your monitor is connected to your keyboard! This makes it impossible to sit correctly at your computer. 
Please see the illustration demonstrating the most common positions when using a laptop.  Remember that red glowing joints are not normal.  If one must use their computer in any of these postures there are some things you can do to prevent repetitive motion injuries. If you do find yourself in these positions make sure to:
a)      take frequent breaks
b)      change positions often
c)       stretch you joints in directions opposite of sustained position.
 If you have any overuse injuries please remember that your local physical therapist can help!