Articles by Leor Okrent

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Laptop Ergonomic Tips: Should I Place my Laptop on my Lap?

Person using laptop on a bed

Ironically, placing your laptop on your lap is not good for you!

In fact, most of us probably know this already, but the convenience together with its enticing name makes us want to comply. “Ok laptop you win, I’ll place you on my lap once more!”

Placing a laptop on our lap has both postural and radiation implications (and there is no shortage of articles on both!). However, I will focus on the postural aspect.

As an osteopath, when a patient presents in my clinic, I always endeavour to identify the source of the problem. Identifying the underlying issue and addressing it leaves a clear path to recovery. Increasingly, the issue has to do with our laptops that we so love to use. We convince ourselves that sitting on the sofa or lying in bed doesn’t count as we are not working! It is probably true to say that using a laptop for a short period of time poses less risk. However, the risk increases if we sustain this posture for a longer period.

Using a laptop for a long period of time (and it doesn’t matter if we are working, socialising, or searching for the latest must-have gadget – our body just doesn’t care!) ergonomically will make us susceptible to strain. The compact design of the laptop forces us into awkward postures as the screen and keyboard are connected. This means that if the screen is the right height, the keyboard position is too high, and when the keyboard is at the right height, the screen is too low. This creates an ongoing trade-off between poor head/neck posture, and poor hand/wrist posture. Resultant symptoms of headaches, neck and back pain, shoulder and arm pain, and pins and needles/numbness in the hands may occur.

Your body will thank you even if you only take on some of the advice given in this article. I would always advise you against using your laptop on your lap. However, I’m including advice for both those who are willing to change and those who want to stick with the lap-top position.

Setting up your laptop for frequent use

  • Purchase a separate keyboard and mouse
  • Adjust your screen position – Raise the laptop so the screen is at eye level.
  • Adjust your keyboard – Your keyboard and mouse should be placed approximately 10cm from the edge of the desk. They should be slightly below elbow level in order for your shoulders to relax and your wrists to be flat whilst typing.
  • Adjust your chair height – The height should be positioned to allow your arms to be parallel to the floor when you type. If you cannot place your feet flat on the floor, you will need a footrest.
  • Adjust the angle and height of your backrest – The backrest should support your lower back. If possible, adjust the tilt of the seat so that your body is inclined slightly forward. This will encourage you to sit upright, and keep your back straight.
  • Take frequent breaks – You should get up and walk around every 30-45 minutes.

Setting up your laptop for a short period of use

  • Sitting position – Use a chair that supports a comfortable upright position. In a reclined position, prop your feet up to maintain a neutral trunk/thigh angle.
  • Lower back support – Use a towel, pillow or a lumbar pillow for support.
  • Laptop position – Place the laptop on your lap to keep your wrists straight whilst typing. An empty 6-7 cm folder with the wider edge towards your knees will create an angle that will keep your wrists straight.
  • Avoid spending lengthy periods in this position

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