Originally designed to be compact and portable for people on the go, laptop computers have become the primary computer choice for many. Unfortunately, the design doesn’t promote good posture, especially when used for extended periods of time. The keyboard and screens can’t be adjusted independently of each other and tend to be smaller, which increases the potential for hand/finger/eye strain. Larger body muscles can bear strain much more easily and longer than those in the arms (thus the lesser of the two evils), however these shortfalls create the risk for pain, aching, muscular fatigue, eye strain, headaches, numbness and tingling.  As your body is subjected to these postures for hours on end, day in and day out, your musculoskeletal system adapts … and adopts! The anterior neck muscles, internal shoulder rotators, chest muscles and torso/hip flexors are all in a shortened contracted state and should be stretched regularly. Conversely the posterior neck and back muscles, external shoulder rotators, and torso/hip extenders are being pulled “long” – these are the areas that become achey and sore in most situations and are the ones that need to be strengthened.

If you’re on a computer all day, give yourself plenty of breaks to move around and stretch out the front of your body such as the neck, chest and shoulders – do some some stimulating contractions for the back such as shoulder blade squeezes and squats. A regular routine of strengthening and stretching is the best thing for your body in order to combat the effects of gravity, aging, and activities of daily living, but implementing better ergonomics is good practice too! There are many products on the market that can help make your workstation more body-friendly, but they can be expensive, and possibly not the right solution for your needs. You can try jury-rigging your own set up with materials at hand, and it helps to have friends who are creative and handy with tools.

  • Shoulders should be resting at your sides with elbows bent at 90 degrees and wrists straight.
  • Tilt the screen to reduce glare and neck bending.
  • The chair armrests shouldn’t obstruct your arm movements, so lower or even remove them if necessary.
  • Can you use shortcut keys instead of the mouse?
  • Raise the screen to eye level when reading lengthy documents and lower the keyboard to elbow level for intensive keying – you can use an empty binder or purchase a stand and/or docking station.
  • Simple, inexpensive solutions may involve a wireless external mouse and/or keyboard.
  • Since portable equipment is also heavy to carry, limit the peripherals to the bare essentials. The best transporting option is to use a carrier with wheels; the second best is a backpack with two padded straps to evenly distribute the weight. If you use a carrier with only one shoulder strap, be sure to switch shoulders frequently.

And for goodness sakes, book regular appointments with your friendly neighborhood massage therapist!