Ergonomic Laptop Use
- Sit in a comfortable chair that supports your back. If you need to, roll up a sweater or hand towel to make a low back support.
- If you are sitting on the floor at school, sit with your back against a wall.
- When using your laptop for typing, sit up straight. You can keep it in your lap so your arms rest comfortably at your side and your elbows are at 90-degree angles, your wrists are straight. Adjust your screen so your neck does not bend down too much. Make sure battery doesn’t get too warm, and that the pressure from the weight of the laptop doesn’t cut off circulation in your legs.
- If you’re at a desk or table, adjust the chair height so your arms are parallel to the base of the laptop. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor (or a foot rest), and consider getting a wrist pad, if needed. Set the keyboard on a slight incline using an empty three-inch binder. Avoid leaning your wrists on the desk. (See figure 1.)
- If possible, make a laptop station, using an external keyboard and mouse, and/or use a laptop holder, which props the screen up, at eye level. (See figure 2.)
- When sitting on a bed, or couch, use pillows to support your back (and try to sit up straight).
- Get up and walk around or stretch at least once an hour. Stretching relaxes tired muscles, and brings them necessary blood and oxygen.
- Be aware of airflow, temperature and humidity of room (high airflow and temperature with low humidity can cause dry eyes and eye fatigue).
- Visit your eye care professional yearly, more frequently with any vision changes. If you experience eye problems while using your laptop or viewing your computer screen, contact your eye care professional to discuss computer glasses.
- Blink often to keep your eyes moist (and ask eye doctor about eye drops if you need them).
- Use soft light when possible, and use large and easily readable fonts.
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to reduce eyestrain.
- If multi-tasking (such as typing up notes from your textbook), try not to twist your body for extended periods of time.
- For those who use their laptop over 3 hours a day, try to give your eyes a warm eyelid massage every day.
- If you are in a confined space (such as an airplane), position your laptop according to how you plan to use it. If you are going to watch something, adjust your screen to prevent the neck discomfort (maybe place it on the pullout tray).
If you plan to type a lot, place your laptop so that your wrists are straight and your elbows are at 90-degree angles. If you type on your lap, if there is no one seated next to you, lift up the armrest so you can position your shoulders and arms naturally.
- Learn safe keyboarding and mouse skills: move your entire arm to reach the keys and mouse. Move from the shoulders and arms (not the wrists).
- While using the keyboard, keep your hands in line with your forearms (never twisting your hands or bending your wrists) and use as light a touch as possible
- Try not to over pack your backpack; a good rule of thumb is to limit the backpack’s weight to no more than 10 to 15-percent of the weight of the person carrying it.
- While carrying a laptop in your backpack, pack the laptop close to your body, adjust the straps so the top of the backpack is near the mid or upper back, and let the bottom rest on the hips or pelvis. Use a backpack with chest or waist straps.
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Author: Jenny McElaney, college writer, and Lisa Voge-Levin, ergonomic consultant
Reviewer: Elizabeth Lee, M.D., PAMF Family Medicine, and Heshmat Pain Management Clinic
Read more about how ergonomics is applied to the work environment.
For information about computer vision syndrome (CVS).
Check out this video on laptop ergonomics" that gives you a visual representation of the different steps you can take so your laptop use is ergonomic.