Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Laptops Considered Harmful

After (a) witnessing a colleague stricken down with a neck vertebra injury; (b) falling victim myself to a herniated disc (lower back); (c) informal observation; (d) judicious web searching; and (e) putting 2 and 2 together, it is now blindingly obvious to me (and many others) that long-term laptop usage is seriously bad for your posture, and hence your back, your neck, and your long-term health. But it's worse than you think, precisely because of the deadly combination of
  • the seeming innocence of it all
  • the ease with which that "5-minute email check" turns into 2 hours, unnoticed
  • the cumulative nature of persistent bad posture
  • how debilitating it can be when your spine is really affected
If you think of laptop usage as "just one more cigarette" instead of "just one more email" you'll get a glimpse of the magnitude of the impact. Why isn't this more widely reported? Actually, it is! We just don't notice it, because we love our laptops. For example, check out this report from the UK's Daily Telegraph:
Laptops are crippling millions with back problems

Booming sales of laptops have led to a surge in the number of computer users with back and muscle problems, experts have warned. Girls as young as 12 are being diagnosed with nerve damage caused by slouching over screen...

(Read the full story)

And the 2006 story, "Ergonomic Nightmare of the Week: Laptop Computers" in which the image at the top of this posting appears (thanks!):

Ergonomic Nightmare of the Week: Laptop Computers

Regular use of laptop computers in fact violates the Center for Disease Control’s ergonomics guidelines.

There are three main reasons why laptops fail miserably in ergonomic performance:

  1. The monitor and keyboard are attached. This means you are forced to crane your neck down to see the monitor rather than keep a neutral position
  2. The keyboard is too small, causing the elbows and forearms to pronate inward at an unnatural angle
  3. ...

(Read the full story)

Scare-mongering? Like I've said in my previous posting: Do the maths. DUH!

There are easy solutions (including laptop stands, that I'll be reviewing later).

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