Hall of Shame: Portable Computers

  • Are you using a laptop computer right now? If so, I want you to turn your attention to your body position. Are you sitting or lying down? What are shoulders doing? Are they slouched and droopy? What about your neck? Is it careening forward as you strain to see the screen? Your body posture can look pretty darn awkward while working on a laptop computer.


    If you spend a great deal of time using a portable computer, then you’re probably starting to notice some aches and pains too.  Many types of pain from the low back to the head can be caused by prolonged periods of time spent in an awkward position while using a laptop computer.

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    Why is the laptop computer so shameful? Well, just look at the keyboard to start with; it’s small, confined and flat. In a study evaluating keyboards, researchers discovered that people disliked the keyboard on a conventional laptop computer the most.1 The implication of using such a ergonomically-incorrect keyboard is that the rest of your body contorts in order to use the tool. Your shoulders are drawn forward and droop down in order to position the hands close together. Following the shoulder’s lead, your neck will also come forward causing extreme flexion at the base of the neck while the top of your neck extends enough to keep the face squarely in front of the screen.2 Your posture while using a laptop computer amounts to one big ergonomic nightmare.


    Unfortunately, you’re the victim of this body contorting nightmare. And matters only get worse if you lie on your belly, stand at a counter, or juggle the laptop on your lap.3 Stop the madness before you have more pain than you can withstand.


    If you are using another mobile device like iPads, iPhones and notebooks; I am talking to you too. None of these devices were designed with your body in mind. Yes, they are small, portable and convenient, but at the expense of good body mechanics. These devices are only designed to be used infrequently and for short periods of time.


    Switch to a desktop computer before it’s too late to undo the damage. By using a desktop, you’ll find that the keyboard is more comfortable, the screen is larger and adjustable to your height, and your workstation can be custom tailored to you. These changes will give your body a well deserved break from the portable computer hall of shame.


    1. Appl Ergon. 2007 May;38(3):293-8
    2. Appl Ergon. 1997 Aug;28(4):263-8
    3. Appl Ergon. 2012 Mar;43(2):392-9
Published On: April 18, 2013