Laptops are a wonderful invention, aren’t they? Their portability allows us to be able to use them just about anywhere. It was one of the key points in my decision in purchasing one over the traditional desktop.
Unfortunately, they were not designed to be used long term and are not user friendly when it comes to our overall well-being. However, like most people, I have no interest in having both a desktop and a laptop. I am not that organized to make sure the right data is on the right machine. Nor do I care for the added expense.
So, I decided that I need to learn more about keeping the common ailments at bay that sitting at a laptop can bring on for many of us.
The Pains of Sitting at a Laptop
If you haven’t experienced some aches and pains by now, you probably will if you don’t start taking some precautions. The pains I am referring to include back, neck, legs, and wrist. There are also ailments such as fatigue and weight gain that are often associated with sitting at a computer all day.
Unfortunately, they can often work against each other, making each worse. For example, stiff muscles and painful joints can lead to less activity, and result in more weight gain. On the flip side, weight gain can also lead to more pain…and even additional weight gain.
However, I have learned some tricks, as well as ideas from specialists on how to get lower back pain relief from working at the computer all day, as well as the other ailments. I am going to share some of these tips with you now.
1. The Use of Ergonomics
Ergonomics is a study and design of furniture and tools that work with the natural form of a human body, rather than against it. Unfortunately, laptops are not as easily adapted to ergonomics as a traditional desktop computer can be. However, it’s not impossible either.
Dr. Tamara James of Duke University has done extensive studies on ergonomics with laptops. She suggests using a docking system, which works well to battle against the common ailments, and allows for a more comfortable working environment. However, it requires a separate external monitor and keyboard to work, which can be costly if you are on a budget.
The external monitor can be adjusted to eye level, which reduces the stress on the neck. And, the external keyboard can be infused with proper padding for the wrist, or a split keyboard to help with angling your wrists, and reducing the risk of carpal tunnel.
She also has a recommendation for those of us who might not want to spend the extra money for the separate components, or have that much equipment around. If you use a simple 3-ring binder to place the laptop on, it can be at the right angle to both raise the monitor, as well as reduce the stress of your wrists.
2. Sitting Properly
It’s tempting to take the laptop and write while in the hammock, or while sitting in a comfy recliner, isn’t it? However, while a laptop makes that incredibly easy to do, it doesn’t mean it’s the best decision. First, if you are working, you should try to keep it in a professional atmosphere, but that could be a whole different article.
The chair is important, no matter which computer you sit at, and perhaps is the most important tool you can have when it comes to protecting your overall health while working. A good lumbar chair will support your body the way it is supposed to be supported, as long as you use it properly. Here are some tips:
• Make sure your feet rest comfortably on the floor. If the chair is not adjustable, place something under your feet.
• Sit right up to the desk, so your arms are resting by your side and at a 90° angle when using the keyboard.
• Lift the monitor so that you look into the center of it without bending your neck.
• Most importantly, sit completely back in the chair, with the curve of your lower back resting on the lumbar support.
Implementing these simple steps will reduce stress on your back, neck, shoulders, and even eyes.
3. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can lead to muscle cramping. This alone is reason enough for drinking plenty of water. When we are in a sedate position all day, we want to do whatever we can to keep our muscles and joints from getting too tight.
A second benefit to drinking lots of water will be that you will get up more often to take breaks. It’s recommended that we have 6-8 8oz glasses of water each day. If you are not accustomed to drinking that much, you might want to start adding water slowly to your diet, or you won’t get any work done.
4. Make sure to Eat
Eating light and healthy snacks will keep our energy up, which will allow us to work more productively all day. A light snack such as an apple in the morning break, and some pretzels in the afternoon will help to keep you going throughout the day.
This isn’t in place of lunch, which should also be light and healthy when possible. Have you ever tried to work after a huge meal? It’s difficult, at best.
5. Move Around
During your breaks, make sure to move around a little. Do some stretching, or walk to the corner and back. Keeping your body active will help prevent muscles from tightening up. It will also help to refresh your mind to stay focused on your work when you sit back down.
These are some ideas that can help you be more productive while working on your laptop, as well as for your downtime when you close shop for the day. Take from them and implement what works best for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Monroe is a freelance writer, living in California with his family. He is currently writing a series of articles on ergonomics with the assistance of a Chiropractor in Columbia, IL.