I talk a lot about posture with my patients. Part of those discussions is often an attempt to locate some issues in an individual’s life that are promoting poor posture. Looking at where we spend the most prolonged time in a day is a good place to start. Are you sitting at a desk with a bad chair all day? Driving in the car with the seat improperly positioned? All of these are big factors. But there is one that I keep seeing, that, to me, is the biggest culprit for posture related pain: Laptops.
Why are laptops so bad?
You might think that working on a laptop is not different than any other computer. However, the positioning of the screen and the keyboard make this set up an ergonomic nightmare. On a regular desktop, the best positioning for the keyboard is near your lap. This lets your arms hang naturally while you type. The screen should be positioned so the top of the screen is level with your eyes.
With a laptop, this optimal positioning is impossible. If you set the keyboard up correctly, you have to bend your neck down to see the screen. If you put the screen where it has to be for your neck, you have to lift your arms to type. I think many people end up compromising between the two extremes. This middle ground is just bad for both body parts.
Another factor with laptop use, is that they are often not used at a desk at all. Their portability allows them to be used at the kitchen table, on your lap while sitting on a couch, or when lying in bed. All of these locations force you to twist yourself into poor posture positions to accomodate for the laptop’s setup.
The solution for laptop posture
All of this being said, people still love their laptops! There are a lot of positive things about being able to take your work with you, instead of being chained to a desk. I get all that, and I have solutions. Since the problem comes from the screen and the keyboard being so close to each other, we need to separate them to make our spines happy again.
An external keyboard with a laptop stand is my solution for the laptop ergonomic problem. It allows you to have a keyboard and mouse at the right level for your arms and upper back, and lets your neck sit comfortably to see the screen. This way you can still take the laptop with you if you need portability, but for the bulk of your work, you can stay in a good posture. And good posture goes a long way to keeping you out of back pain.