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How to set up your desk when you use a laptop in 4 steps

This is a post for people who frequently use a laptop to work on or for longer periods of time. It is especially good for people worried about or who suffer from tension headaches, neck or low back pain, high or sore shoulders, or other postural issues such as forward head posture.

In the video, Martin (using Kieran as the perfect ergonomics model) talks us through the correct ergonomics of how to set up our laptops as a workstation.

Please enjoy the quick video, for your convenience, the ergonomics demo has been transcribed below. 

This video will show you what you need to do to set up your desk when you are using a laptop.

Hi, this is Martin and Kieran from Align Chiropractic, we're here today to give you a quick video that will answer one of the most commonly asked questions that we get in the practice every day.

How should you have your desk set up so that you can look after your spine and your posture when you're spending time at your computer?

The first example we're going to do today is how to set it up for a laptop. Laptops are always a little bit more of a compromise than a desktop because you can't separate the screen but we’re going to go through how you can set it up so that your posture is in as close to the optimal position as possible. 

Step 1: Seat Height

The first point that we want to address is make sure, we can't see this but just take my word for it, Kieran's feet are flat on the floor. 

So we don't want crossed legs because it’s going to create twisting and torsion through our pelvis and lower back and create tension there. 

We want to make sure that the height of the chair, if you've got a gas lift chair, is up high enough so that your hip is either level with your knee so that we've got a straight line there, or you want the hips slightly higher than the knees.

What you don't want, because it's going to create a real curve in your back is knees higher than hips. 

So first point; set up the gas lift so that you're at that height. 

Step 2: Keyboard and arm position

we also want to have when we've got a hand on the keyboard there we want to make sure that we have pretty close to a 90 degree angle here. 

The main thing you don't want to have is to have the keyboard a lot lower, so this is particularly important for shorter people. 

If you have the chair too low then you're in a position where you start having to bunch up and create a lot of tension in your shoulders to be able to keep your hands on the keyboard. 

We want the set up so that we have hands easily on the keyboard with elbows roughly at about that 90 degrees or slightly more open. 

So we want to move our chair in or out so that with our hands comfortably on the keys we've got our hip and shoulder lined up because what we're really wanting to do here is have the big weight of the chest balanced over our hip.

What we don't want to be is so far back that we start to do this kind of thing, where there's a lot more tension on both the lower back and shoulders. Similarly, we don't want to be leaning all the way forward because it's going to tire out our back. 

Step 3: How do you manage the screen position?

So, a nice comfortable position of the chair, then this is the bit where we always have the little bit of a compromise with the laptop where we want to get your head balanced over your shoulder, but if you're looking down at a screen on a laptop, then that's always going to be a little bit tricky. 

The idea with the laptop is, make sure that you realise that you're always going to have a little bit of your head posture forward rather than balance the weight of your head over your shoulder so it’s really important to take micro breaks. 

Step 4: Micro Breaks

There are programs you can get that will remind you every 20-25 minutes to just stop for a minute, relax your arms way aside have a little micro break, turn your head all the way to the left, all the way around to the right, just drop your shoulders up and down a little bit and then you can get back to work.

So there it is, a couple of key points that you can use to set up your desk or your laptop in the optimal position, thanks.