Because of their portability and compact size, laptops are very popular for students and workers alike. They allow users to communicate and work on their tasks no matter if they’re at school, home, or work.
However, the features that make these benefits possible also make laptops a not-so-ergonomic choice. Especially if you’re a frequent laptop user, you’re at risk of developing a forward head posture and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like carpal tunnel syndrome.
To make your laptop health-friendly, here are some tips that you should follow.
1. Get an External Monitor
Laptops are equipped with small screens that force you to hunch to get a closer look. This position not only strains your neck, it also causes eye strain.
Whenever possible, work on a larger screen by plugging in your laptop into an external LCD monitor. By using a higher quality display for your primary viewing, you can make the text easier to read.
You can even buy an external monitor that’s suitable for your needs. For example, a monitor with a pivot function or wide screen works great if you often read long documents or create spreadsheets.
The process of shifting your laptop’s display into an external monitor differs depending on whether you’re using Windows or iOS. However, both use either a VGA or HDMI cable so you’ll need to have one.
2. Use a Separate Keyboard and Mouse
It’s hard to maintain a neutral wrist position when you’re typing or mousing with your laptop’s cramped built-in keyboard and hard-to-maneuver trackpad. When you’re constantly straining your wrist by staying in this unnatural position, you’re increasing your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
To remedy this problem, you should attach an external keyboard and mouse to your laptop.
These computer peripherals should be placed at or slightly below elbow level to maintain a neutral wrist position. They put your whole body in the proper posture.
3. Buy a Laptop Stand
Though laptops are designed to be used on any surface, placing it on your desk like most people do isn’t healthy. You’re forced to assume a forward head posture which puts a whopping 10 pounds of weight on your cervical spine for every inch that you tilt your head forward.
To maintain a neutral neck posture, you should position the laptop screen at eye level. A laptop stand can help you achieve this. There are other benefits as well besides keeping your head and neck straight.
Of course, when using a laptop stand, you’ll have to pair it with an external mouse and keyboard to keep your wrists in a healthy position.
If you don’t have enough budget to buy a laptop stand, you can also use reams of paper or phone books to adjust the height of your laptop.
4. Take Frequent Breaks and Stretches
Staying in one position for too long can lead to chronic neck and back pain, diminished cognitive abilities, muscle and organ deterioration, and poor blood circulation. Even worse, it increases your risk of developing potentially fatal diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
To prevent these health problems, what you need to do is get up and move every 30 to 45 minutes. Stretch, take a quick walk, hydrate – these are some of the best ways to spend these breaks.
5. Invest in a Docking Station
If you’re always using your laptop while working on your desk, your best bet to improve the ergonomics is to invest in a docking station. A docking station will enable you to emulate a standard desktop workstation, complete with external monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
Pair this with an office chair that can properly support your weight, back, and posture. If you often source documents, a document holder can also help you prevent aches and pains.
When buying a docking station, make sure to check if it has all the ports that you need. You might also want to look for features like Ethernet options, USB 3.0 ports, 4K support, more external monitor compatibility, and charging capability.
A laptop might not be the most ergonomic device, but that doesn’t mean that you have to completely avoid using one. Invest in accessories and tools that can make it a health-friendly choice. Make some changes to your workflow to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
If you keep these pointers in mind, it’s totally possible to stay healthy while taking advantage of the benefits of using a laptop.