Pain-Free Notebook PC
Users Can Avoid Unknowingly Damaging Necks, Wrists
typical user of a notebook would lower the head in order
to view the screen. This causes stress on the neck, and
with the wrists bent to use the keyboard, nerves are
“People used to start going for treatment
of deteriorating disk disease in the early years of 40s.
However, in the recent years, they go in their late 20s.
The culprit, is the notebook computer” says Physician
and ergonomist Doctor Mark Vettraino, director of
ergonomics consultants Task Group International
When speaking at conferences, he
demonstrates the effect of notebooks by showing X-rays
of his own neck taken three years apart. The first shows
a natural, healthy 60-degree curve of his spine. The
second shows it almost straight and at an angle. Those
were the first three years in which he used a notebook
Strain on Neck
He refers to the head as a ‘12-pound
bowling ball.’ If a person sits for too long with the
head lowered and the neck bent to view a computer
screen, the weight strains the muscles at the back of
the neck, and the spine assumes the curved-forward
The stress on the muscles can cause pain;
it results in a form of repetitive stress injury (RSI).
The loss of curvature of the neck can cause disks to
bulge and touch nerves, even to rupture.
Stress on Wrists
At the same time, the keyboard can be too
high, so the user’s wrists bend and are held in one
position for too long. This can cause another RSI, and
result in carpal tunnel syndrome in which nerves to the
hand are pinched.
The touchpad or button used as a pointing
device (i.e., instead of a mouse) can also be in an
awkward position, causing strain of the muscles of the
arm and shoulder.
Notebook computers were designed to be
portable and for use for brief periods only, not for use
over extended periods at a desk.
In the office, the notebook computer user
needs an arrangement as close as possible to the
ergonomic set-up in the attached illustration.
Stands are available to
hold the notebook computer at the
Depending on the model, the notebook computer will have
a socket or sockets for external components to be
plugged in. An external keyboard can be plugged in and
supported by an adjustable keyboard tray that places the
keys at the correct height.
If the notebook can accept a plug-in
external pointing device, a mouse or trackball can take
the place of the button or touchpad. This can place the
mouse or trackball at a comfortable position where the
user does not have to stretch so he or she can avoid
strain on arm and shoulder muscles.
Some notebook computer stands include a
USB (universal serial bus) connection. The notebook can
be connected through it to a number of external devices.
Some notebook computers provide wireless connection to
external keyboards, mice and printers.
An alternative is an interconnection
device known as a docking station. A station can link
the notebook computer to, for example, a local-area
network in an office or building, and into a larger
computer. This preserves the original purpose of the
notebook, which is to allow a person to take computing
ability on the road, but to be able to work with a
larger computer in the office.
Even in high-tech organizations, it is
common to see computer professionals bring their
notebooks into the office, plonk them down on their
desks and begin work. They are the very people who go to
see someone like Dr. Vettraino before they are 30.
Notebook stands can place the screen at a
healthy height. With an external keyboard plugged into
the computer and held on an adjustable tray, the keys
can be placed at the correct height to avoid carpal
tunnel problems, and an external mouse can be plugged in
and positioned to avoid stretching.
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How Users Can Avoid Unknowingly Damaging
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