Students Warned to Beware of 'Laptop-itis'08/16/10
MONDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- The very design of laptop
computers encourages bad posture among college students and other
heavy users, which can lead to headaches, muscle strain and
debilitating neck, shoulder and hand injuries, researchers
The issue stems from the unified body construction that defines
laptops, researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at
Chapel Hill School of Medicine, explained in a university news
release. With an inseparable keyboard and monitor, users are not
free to configure their equipment in a way that minimizes risk.
"When you use a laptop, you have to make some sort of sacrifice," Dr. Kevin Carneiro, a physician in the UNC School of Medicine's department of physical medicine and rehabilitation, stated in the news release.
Such a sacrifice to convenience comes at a price, Carneiro
noted. Awkward positioning of the fingers and body can cause nerve
injury to the wrist and prompt the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome,
while poor neck position and shoulder posture can cause muscle
strain and soreness in those areas.
Signs of trouble typically come in the form of headaches, wrist
pain, tingling in the fingers or thumb, and neck and shoulder pain,
Concern about such laptop health issues is driven by their
rising popularity, as worldwide sales now exceed those of standard
desktop computers. Students are particularly vulnerable, since
laptops are a common feature of campus life.
That said, Carneiro and his colleagues point out that laptop
users can take specific steps to minimize their risk.
- If you are working at a computer, your body should form
90-degree angles at the elbows, knees and hips.
- Use a docking station and cables to hook up to an external
monitor and/or separate keyboard that are moveable to encourage
- With the help of a docking station, position the computer so
you can read the screen without bending your neck.
- Pay attention to the chair you sit in -- look for one that is
adjustable and comes with back support.
- Tilt the screen so you don't need to bend your neck, and place
the mouse so that your wrists are in a neutral position (one in
which they are aligned with your arm and not raised above it).
- Take frequent short breaks every 20 minutes or so -- this can
help rest muscles and encourage position shifting. Do some shoulder
shrugs, gentle forward head rolls, and shoulder scrunches to
stretch your muscles.
- Stay hydrated -- drinking plenty of water can help keep discs
in your back lubricated.
In addition, watch out for warning signs, including pain and
tingling. Carneiro said these may mean you need to use better
posture, take more breaks, or see a doctor.
For more on laptops and posture, visit the
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
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