Ergonomic Nightmare of the Week: Laptop Computers

What nightmare would have any man awaken in a cold sweat? A frightening omen of perpetual neck pain and lowered sperm counts, of course. What is even more frightening is that many people live this nightmare every day by using laptop computers.

As laptop speed and power capabilities now compete with those of desktops, many people chose laptops over desktops as their computers of choice. The portability of computing power gives us more freedom of movement, and less of an excuse to get away from our work and other computer related addictions.

But the value of laptops lie solely in their portability. Other than that, laptops are big ergonomic nightmares in tiny packages. 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. Laptops do not have adequate cooling systems. Hot laptop batteries have been known to cause burns and studies indicate that men who frequently use laptops directly on their laps risk lower sperm counts and infertility


Laptop Ergonomics

The good news is, there is something you can do about it. Chances are, if you are a regular laptop user, you have probably already implemented at least one of these solutions to make laptop computing more ergonomic.

Three ways to wake up from your laptop nightmare:

1. Prop up or angle your laptop so that your neck remains in a neutral position. There a tons of laptop stands on the market, some are portable, some are meant more as permanent solutions. If you’re not ready to make a decision, you can use dictionaries and phone books in the mean time.

2. Use an external keyboard and mouse whenever possible. If you are not constricted by needing to reach your keyboard, your options for adjusting the monitor increase. Besides this, you are freed from the shackles of your mini keyboard and your less than ideal built-in mouse.

3. Don’t put a laptop on your lap! It sounds funny, but it’s true. Using a laptop directly on your lap is one of the worst ergonomic computing position you can have, because of all the reasons mentioned above. Cooler Master recently came out with a solution to this problem: the NotePalP1, a laptop stand that is also a cooling device.

Resources for laptop ergonomics

Healthy Computing

Cornell University Ergonomics


Medical News Today (lowered sperm count study)

Laptop stands

Ergo In Demand


Laptop Ergonomics