Laptops have made us be able to work more flexibly and be more mobile, but they have been blamed for causing work-related back, neck and shoulder problems as well as headaches.



Cases of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) are on the rise according to the Health and Safety Executive.  The increasing popularity of laptops may be a factor in the problem, once they were only used by busy business people who had to work on planes or trains, but thanks to lower prices, the rise in home working and wireless internet access, laptops are everywhere.


Currently about 11% of the workforce spend a significant amount of their time working from home and this is on the rise. Coupled with this is the explosion of social media, meaning that more of our leisure time is spent on a computer, tablet or phone leaving us vulnerable to long periods of poor posture. “Every week I see many people with neck, back, headaches and shoulder problems caused by excessive laptop use, and the numbers are rising” says Lynne Midwinter, Chartered Physiotherapist.


Bad posture at a laptop is almost inevitable because of the way laptops are designed.  The main problem is the keyboard being attached to the screen as this causes you to hunch over the desk with your head in a forward position. This loads the spine and strains the muscles, causing pain and stiffness.   Also, as the keyboard is smaller than a regular keyboard, your arms are often at a strange angle, with your wrists twisted inwards.  This increases the compression at your wrist causing problems like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  All these problems are amplified when using a laptop on your knees, with the added risk of “toasted knee syndrome” where the heat from the laptop can damage the skin on your legs, with temperatures rising to 52 degrees Celsius.


Remember laptops are fine when used properly. “There are plenty of ways you can make your laptop safer and more comfortable,” says Lynne.


Laptop-use tips


  • Use a separate keyboard and mouse so that the laptop can be put on a stand and the screen opened at eye level.
  • For sustained periods of work plug your laptop into a monitor and keyboard.
  • Use your laptop on a stable base where there is support for your arms, and not on your lap.
  • Take regular breaks. If you’re moving, there’s a lot less stress on your muscles and joints.
  • Carry your laptop in a backpack or in a wheeled case to minimise spine strain.
  • Adopt a good sitting posture with lower back support, and ensure that other desk equipment is within reach.
  • Get into good habits before the aching starts. Neck, shoulder, back and headache problems often gradually build up over time.


If you think you are getting aches and pains related to computer use, a Physiotherapist is a great first port of call – we are the experts on posture, joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves and can not only offer you hands-on treatment to alleviate the pain, but can advise you how best to stop the problems recurring.   There are many simple exercises to do and ways to work smarter and a Physio consultation is the first step on the road to recovery!  Phone us on 01706 819464 to book an assessment.

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