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Laptop Backaches
Photo: Elena Buetler
You have probably grumbled that your laptop causes eyestrain. Did you know it may be causing a more serious health problem? It may be ruining your spine.

Do you put your laptop on your lap or sit hunched or slumped over while you use it? Do that long enough and it can damage your spine. Do you type with your wrists pressed up against the edge of your laptop? That may give you carpel tunnel.

Doctors are reporting a big upswing in people reporting back and neck pains. In many cases the problem comes from using a laptop computer for long periods, while slumped in a chair. A London-based chiropractor said that he is seeing “many people in their twenties and thirties with a dowager's hump.” This is a rounding at the base of the neck. The cause? Hours of using a laptop while slouched over. It only takes a few years to do permanent damage. Doctors are reporting seeing symptoms of nerve damage in laptop users as young as twelve.

Your Mother was Right.

What can you do? Well, your mother was right. Sit up straight when you use a computer. Even if it is a laptop. Cannot see the screen when you do that? There are two options. Get a computer stand that can hold your laptop high enough that you do not have to slouch or slump when you use your laptop. Alternatively, invest in a docking station. Plug the laptop into the station, and it connects it to a standard sized keyboard and monitor.

Some other useful tips include:

1. Get a comfortable chair. An ergonomic chair costs more, but it does wonders in reducing back strain. It is cheap when compared to the cost of back surgery.

2. Drink lots of fluids. If you sit for long periods of time, the spine compresses, pushing fluid out of the intervertebral disks. Rehydrating helps reduce that.

3. Take frequent breaks. Get up and walk around. Stretch.

4. Do some whole-body exercises. Swimming builds up muscles in your back and neck.

5. Put the keyboard in a position where you do not have to hold your wrist back in order to use it.

Finally, remember, while a computer is a useful tool, and can be a valuable source of information and entertainment, there is a world outside computer. Walk away from the screen. Take some time to experience non-virtual reality. Your back—and body—will thank you.

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By Mark N. Lardas, copyright 2007, Mark N. Lardas, all rights reserved.  Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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