Are you using your desktop, laptop or tablet correctly?
Although they now so common place that we no longer think about their use, desktop computers, laptops and tablets can put us at physical risk if not used appropriately. Physiotherapy matters are keen to ensure that everyone is aware of the potential problems of working with PCs and different electronic devices and also provide a few handy tips to ensure that your risks of pain are reduced.
Much effort has gone into looking at the ergonomics of desktop computers and work station set ups. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provided a set of Display Screen Regulations that came into full force in 1992 and has since been updated to include laptop computers. More and more of our patients come to Physiotherapy Matters with pain having worked for extended periods on the laptop.
For desktops, we generally advise that your eyes should be roughly level with the top of the screen, arms should be horizontal to the keyboard, and your feet should be flat on the floor with your hips slightly higher than your knees. You should sit up straight with your back supported and make sure there is adequate space under the desk for your legs.
Regardless of your position, too many people simply sit for too long at the computer without any breaks. Regular breaks should be taken by doing some easy stretches at the computer or having a walk around the office.
Laptops have revolutionised how we are able to work allowing increased flexibility. They can also present problems as the basic position of working at the laptop can be worse than that of a desk top. In addition to the basic position of the laptop, the dangers of increased laptop use can be exaggerated by working with them away from the office. This can include working with the laptop on the train table or with the lap top on your knee when sat on the sofa. HSE recommend using the laptop as much like a desktop as you can. They advise using a docking station or work on a firm surface, use a full sized keyboard and mouse when appropriate. You should also tilt the screen so that you can sit comfortably and that reflection is minimised. If you are not able to make these adaptions try to take more regular breaks which will reduce the stress placed on your neck and back. When carrying the laptop, it is also recommended you use a laptop bag that can be placed over both shoulders and use the lightest equipment available.
The use of tablets is now common place with 42% of under 18’s using them and half of all 35-49 years using them regularly. A recent study has found that tablets put 3 times as much pressure on your neck than desktop computers and that by bending your neck to a 60-degree angle, it can place 27kg of pressure on the cervical spine- more than the average weight of a seven-year-old! To ease the pressure on the neck and back adopt a good sitting posture with appropriate support in your lower back try to use docking stations or stands where possible. You should also take regular breaks as when you are moving it places much less stress on your joints and muscles. A general rule should be taking a break every hour when using a desktop computer and this should be halved again when using a tablet.