Health Risks Related With the Usage of Laptops
‘Laptops are convenient to use and can be easily carried from one place to another, that’s why they are preferred over desktops. Being small in size and light in weight, users can move the machine easily, also place it in a position comfortable for use,’ says Dr sanjay sharma pain physician JPRC However, he warns us about a few health risks related with the usage of laptops.
- Destroys comfort while typing: The biggest disadvantage of laptops is that they have keyboards attached to the screens, which destroys comfort while typing.
- Disturbs the eye level: The ideal way of working in front of the screen is keeping it at eye level or the top of the machine at 17 degrees above the eye level. This is not possible while using a laptop because of the small size of the machine and small screen height.
- Promotes protruded posture: When you’re using a laptop, you tend to lean forward, which increases the pressure on lumbar spine or lower back. Since the screen of a laptop is always below the eye level, it promotes a protruded posture or a rounded back posture. This posture is dangerous for the neck and spine. Pressure on the neck can cause cervical spondylosis while strain on the spinal discs can cause disc herniation or slipped disc.
- Increases eye strain: Laptops have smaller screens. This naturally forces you to stare at the screen and blink lesser number of times, causing eye strain and headache. If you don’t use an anti-glare screen and adjust the brightness while working, you could develop dry eyes. It could also affect your eye power.
- Increased strain on the wrist: When you’re typing on the laptop, you don’t have any other option but to rest your wrists on the keyboard while typing. This can increase the pressure on the nerves in the wrist. Also, being smaller in size, the attached keyboard forces you to twist the wrist in uncomfortable positions while typing and using the mouse pad. It can cause tingling sensation in the fingers and pain along the arms, culminating incarpal tunnel syndrome.
- Repetitive stress disorder: While using a laptop, you repeatedly increase stress on different parts of the body including arms, neck, wrists and shoulders. This increases the risk of repetitive stress disorder.
- Problems with different postures: Many a times, people tend to work in a posture that is extremely unsuited to the body.
When you keep the laptop on your lap, your elbows tend to shift behind, while you contract your shoulders. You tend to drop your neck forward to look at the screen. Your lower back is not well supported and your thighs carry the laptop weight. This posture causes a lot of damage. Firstly, without proper lower back support, your spine curves awkwardly and you get used to a rounded back posture. Secondly, the pressure on the sacrum increases, promoting disc herniation and spondylosis.
Sometimes you may prefer using a laptop while sleeping on the stomach with elbows dug into the bed. This posture is advisable if you have been sitting in front of the laptop for a long time and you need to break the posture. But, sitting in this posture continuously can damage the spine, shoulders and neck.
Another posture that’s quite commonly used is sitting on the bed with the back rested on 2-3 pillows for support. Although this posture may appear comfortable and really good for the back, it can cause more damage than benefit. Firstly, you don’t have a strong, hard support for the back to keep the spine in place. Secondly, it causes you to push your neck in the front, increasing pressure on the spine. This posture can cause disc herniation.
Using desktops: ‘Desktops are larger machines with a separate keyboard and a mouse. This setting allows the user to type comfortably. A separate mouse allows the wrist to rest in a comfortable position, preventing strain on the nerves in the wrist. A larger, wider screen prevents excessive straining of the eyes. Desktops also have adjustable stands that allow you to adjust the screen to your eye level,’ says Dr sanjay sharma. he highlights a few health risks related with the usage of desktops.
- Prolonged use can cause muscle soreness: While the design and setting, of a desktop computer minimises risk, prolonged use can lead to muscle soreness and pain in the neck, spine, back, shoulders and arms.
- Frequent headaches: Headaches are a common complaint among those who use a desktop computer for a long time. Increased muscle tension or pain in the neck, at the base of the skull, is the main reason for a headache with computer use.
- Eye problems: Bright light, glaring screen and flickering images can strain your eyes. Also, you tend to blink less number of times, increasing the risk of dry eyes and computer vision syndrome. Here are some tips to prevent eye strain.
- Posture: Irrespective of the work-friendly adjustments you make to the machine, back pain, numbness in arms, shoulder and feet are bound to occur if you don’t maintain a good posture. Here are 5 postures you must avoid for good spine health.
Here are 6 other problems common with computer use.
So, which one is better?
‘A desktop computer is any day better than using a laptop computer,’ says Dr sanjay. ‘Although laptops are convenient to use, they have a lot of limitations, as far as musculoskeletal health is concerned.
According to Dr sanjay sharma, using a laptop for a few hours in a day is still tolerable but if the work is going to exceed 3-4 hours, it is advisable to use a desktop rather than a laptop computer, to minimise health risks. In the worst case scenario, if you have no other option but to use a laptop, you must make the following changes to minimise its impact.
- Use external keyboard and mouse: It will minimise the strain on the arms and make typing more comfortable.
- Use a laptop holder: The height of a normal workstation is about 30 inches, which makes it comfortable for you to use a desktop. But when you’re using a laptop, you must use a laptop holder that will raise the height of the machine. If that’s not possible, you can place the laptop on a slanting wooden platform to bring the screen to the eye level.
- Use antiglare screen: To prevent damage of the eyes, use anti-glare and adjust the brightness of your screen to reduce reflection and strain on the eyes.
- Take frequent breaks: No matter the number of adjustments you make to use your laptop in a better way, if you work for a continuous stretch of 4-5 hours, you will suffer. So, avoid sitting in the chair for a long time. Take intermittent breaks to avoid repeated stress. You can also set a timer to remind yourself for taking frequent breaks.
Here are some tips offered by Dr sanjay to ease discomfort while using a desktop computer:
- Sit on a chair with a 100 degrees angle between the seat and the back support.
- Ensure that your elbows are placed at 90 degrees to your shoulder level.
- Most times, while using a desktop, you may tend to shift your buttocks at the edge of the chair, which affects the back and even the legs. When you’re sitting on the chair, pull it close to the table and sit comfortably resting the back.
- Use a screen guard or filter to prevent glare.
Dr sanjay sharma offers a few tips to laptop and desktop users to minimize health hazards:
- Keep looking away from the screen intermittently
- Don’t forget to blink. Try this to minimize eye strain at work.
- Get up from the seat after every half an hour
- Stretch your arms and legs well
- Keep your spine straight
- Break the posture intermittently
- Avoid leaning ahead and maintain a good posture
‘Our lives have become so dependent on technology, that it’s difficult to imagine a day without a computer. And it’s not only laptops that are causing the trouble. With the advent of iPads and smartphones, the condition is becoming even worse without people realising their severe health impact. Although it would be difficult to avoid technology completely, one thing all must do is restrict its use. So, let’s pledge to be gadget-free once in a week or at least an hour a day,’ concludes Dr sanjay sharma