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Ergonomics & Aging
LAPTOP, CELL PHONE, AND TABLET TIPS
Nearly everyone in modern society communicates using a laptop, cell/smart phone, or tablet computer and they are used to take photos, movies, read books, play games, get driving directions, and more. There are inherent problems when people use these small devices because they result in a hunched, forward posture while texting, typing, or reading, and they may cause overuse of the hands, especially the thumbs, if use is constant and excessive. Large, controlled research studies on the effects of the use of handheld devices. Laptops are probably the most likely to cause problems because people often use them for hours at a time. Any of these devices will cause repetitive strain injury if they are used extensively because they each have a set of risk factors that are associated with developing problems.
Adding a lot of props and adaptive gadgets to mobile devices to make them less problematic defeats their intended purpose. But, if they are to be used without eventual injury, they should be used for brief intervals for referencing information or making quick interactions and communications.
Do not forget to take a micro break at least once an hour to stretch the upper body.
- Attach an external mouse and keyboard whenever possible. Sources for these are listed on the laptop products webpage.
- Keep the keyboard and mouse at the edge of the worksurface that is set 1" below or equal to your sitting elbow height. If the worksurface is not adjustable, use a keyboard tray to hold external devices at the correct height. Please refer to the laptop products webpage for information about small, height adjustable tables you can set up in your home.
- Move the laptop close enough so you do not hold your head forward to see what is on the screen.
- Raise the laptop so the top of the screen is at your straight-ahead vision. We suggest you use one of the adjustable monitor stands or laptop holders when you have a fixed workstation where you use the laptop.
- Sit back in the chair and keep your head directly over your shoulders.
- Do not lean on the worksurface while typing; keep your elbows in line with your shoulders, hanging loosely at your sides.
- Never drop your wrists on the "wristrest" of the laptop. Instead, move your hands freely across the keyboard; keep hands in line with elbows.
- Use keyboard commands whenever possible.
- Avoid reflective lighting. Adjust screen brightness to a comfortable level.
- Keep screen clean at all times.
When traveling (with a laptop):
- Refrain from packing non-essential items or extra gadgets to keep your load light (but don't forget the mouse).
- Avoid working on the hotel bed or at a high table.
- Use a small pillow to support your lower back in the car/on the plane.
- Carry the laptop in a backpack or rolling pack instead of a shoulder or handbag. There are many options on the market. Check out the ones we have on the laptop products webpage.
- If you must use the laptop without external devices and monitor stand, it is best used in your lap (as it was designed!) or on a worksurface no higher than 27". See the portable laptop stands listed on the laptop products webpage for convenient ways to support your laptop at a workstation or while traveling.
- Support your feet with a portable footrest (or pillow or baggage) if your knees are much lower than your hips and your low back is not being supported.
- Do not clench the phone between your ear and your shoulder.
- Use a headset or bluetooth device, or change to speaker mode so that you can hold your head upright.
- The thumb is designed for grasping, so excessive use of the thumb in text messaging eventually results in inflammation and eventual damage to the tendons in the tumbs and wrist.
- If your hand(s) start to hurt, stop texting as much, switch to using your fingers rather than your thumbs, switch the hand you use or the way you hold the phone, or make a phone call instead of texting
Tablet computers may prove to be worse than laptop computers in terms of long-term physical problems including the neck and shoulders, and possibly the wrists due to flexion of the wrists while using the small keyboard. Injury depends primarily upon how much time is spent on the tablet and whether they are used with external devices such as a stand and external keyboard. These accessories do not have to be cumbersome as many manufacturers offer cases that convert into stands with integrated keyboards.
- Purchase a tablet cover with built-in stand and keyboard such as one of the ones on our website.
- Be aware of your posture and avoid hunching over to use the tablet.
- Take frequent breaks and stretch your neck, shoulders, and arms.
- Use this device primarily for reading tasks. If you need to do lots of input, use a laptop or desktop computer.
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