Research Article| Volume 17, ISSUE 5, P368-375, June 2002

Influence of laptop computer design and working position on physical exposure variables


      Objective. To evaluate the impact of two laptop designs (with or without palm rest) and two work situations (on desk or lap) on neck and upper limb posture, muscle activity and productivity.
      Design and methods. Eight healthy subjects performed a standardized typing task of 15 min duration. During the last 5 min of each test, the neck, upper arm and trunk postures were captured by a three-dimensional video system, wrist motion was measured by a biaxial electrogoniometer and muscle activity of four neck and upper limb muscles was recorded.
      Results. Only minor differences in postures, wrist positions and productivity were observed when comparing the two laptop designs in the same situation. Larger differences were found when comparing the two situations (desk or lap). In the desk situation, the subjects bent their heads forward less, had less backward trunk inclination and wrist extension, but more elevation of the upper arm. Higher electromyographic (EMG) levels in the trapezius and deltoid muscles and lower EMG levels in the wrist extensors were also found in the desk situation.
      Conclusions. Our findings do not favor one particular laptop design because only small differences in physical exposure were found. However, the workstation set up influenced the physical exposure variables, and was pinpointed as the main determinant to be considered when doing laptop work even-though no ideal situation was found. Greater physical (muscular and articular) constraints seem to be imposed to the shoulder region in the desk situation whereas the head-neck and wrist segments appear to be more stressed in the lap situation.Relevance
      Laptop computers are often used although the physical exposure in laptop work and the impact of different laptop designs have not been systematically assessed. A better understanding of these factors may help formulate some recommendations for laptop users.


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