Laptops are designed to be convenient and portable. But using them can take a toll on your body, causing pain in your neck and back. A different laptop setup might help you feel better. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
1. Take the laptop off your lap
Even though it’s called a laptop, you may not want to use it while it’s on top of your lap. This position often requires you to slouch down and jut your head forward to see the screen, loading your cervical spine with dozens of extra pounds of pressure. If you do need to work without a desk—while on a train, for example—try propping the laptop on your computer bag or briefcase to elevate the screen.
2. Raise the screen higher
The ideal laptop height and angle lets you view the screen easily without bending or rotating your neck. Elevate the laptop a few inches above your desk, placing it on a stable support surface, such as a laptop stand or a stack of thick books. Your eyes should naturally hit the top third of your screen when you look straight ahead.
3. Use a separate keyboard and mouse
When you work on a laptop for an extended period of time, use an external keyboard and mouse rather than the ones that are built into your laptop. Position the keyboard at a height that allows your shoulders and arms to relax. Your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle and tucked close to your body when typing. This posture helps keep you from rounding your shoulders and pulling your neck muscles.
4. Recline slightly
If you don’t want to use a separate keyboard and mouse, you can instead use a chair that allows you to recline slightly. This will allow you to position the laptop in a way that puts the least amount of strain on your neck. Lightly angle the screen upward so you can view it without having to bend your neck too far down. Make sure your lower back is supported too.
5. Upgrade screen size
Get a laptop with the largest screen possible for your needs so you can avoid straining to see the text on a small screen. If you find yourself hunching forward to read from your screen, you can also increase the font size.
6. Put your feet up
If you have to raise your chair to position your arms and wrists comfortably, check to see how your legs are angled. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your knees should be at an even height with your hips. If your hips are too high or your feet don’t reach the floor, use a footrest to prop them up. Raising your feet can help keep you from straining your lower back.
7. Find an ergonomic chair
The type of chair you sit in while using your laptop is critical. Any office chair that is fully adjustable and has lumbar support will work, but you need to be sure to set it up correctly. Keep your head flush against the headrest of the chair to practice good neck posture.
8. Take breaks
Set a reminder on your phone to take a brief break every half hour. Get your eyes off the screen and let them rest on something in the distance. You can do simple stretches at your desk, such as stretching your neck, shoulders, arms, and legs. Every one or two hours, leave your desk to walk around to get your blood flowing and muscles loose.
See Neck Stretches
9. Stand up
Try to spend an hour or two each day using your laptop while standing rather than sitting in a chair. You will need a separate keyboard and mouse and a multilevel setup to do this without straining your neck. Standing desks are popular options. Desktop converters enable you to keep your desk and temporarily convert it to a standup desk.
10. Travel light
If you typically lug your laptop between work and home, purchase a duplicate power cord and other laptop accessories—that way you can leave them in each place instead of carrying the extra load back and forth. You may also want to use a backpack with dual-padded shoulder straps and avoid draping the bag over just one shoulder. If your laptop and accessories feel too heavy, a roll-along carrier may be the best choice.
Pay attention to how you set up your laptop. Careful consideration goes a long way to easing and preventing back and neck pain.