Postural Risks Associated With Laptop Use On A Bed

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This study consists of a survey and experiment to identify the postural risks associated with laptop use in non-traditional work settings. The survey gauged the prevalence of musculoskeletal discomfort among 186 college students, and also identified the configurations in which male and female students most frequently use laptop computers. Previous work suggests that females report a higher prevalence of musculoskeletal discomfort associated with laptop use than males, and the results of the survey confirmed this, but only for neck and shoulder discomfort. Differences in how males and females reported working were also revealed, with females more likely to use a laptop positioned on the lap and also while sitting with their legs crossed. Males, on the other hand, were more likely to report using a laptop while sitting in positions that required large trunk deviations, such as bending over a coffee table or to the side. The experiment, which was based on the survey findings, explored the reasons why females reported experiencing more frequent neck and shoulder discomfort when using a laptop than did males. It was hypothesized that this was because females use laptop computers more frequently in deviated postures. Three configurations that females reported working in more frequently than males in the survey were selected for testing, each within the context of a bed/mattress. Postural analysis and discomfort data was collected for 36 participants (18 males, 18 females) performing a 25-minute typing task in each of the three conditions to determine whether these configurations placed the participants in highly deviated postures. Gender comparisons of postural deviation and self-reported discomfort ratings after completion of a typing task in each position were made. Both male and female participants reported very low levels of discomfort in each of the three conditions, and there was no significant gender difference. Participants displayed highly   deviated postures, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and wrists, in all three conditions and there were few gender differences. Any gender differences that were discovered were not consistently in favor of one gender. Males had a slight tendency to work in more deviated postures than females, however both genders were in undesirable postures for much of the experiment. It is most likely that any increased prevalence of musculoskeletal discomfort in females compared to males is due to their choice of working configuration, rather than inherent differences in posture. However, there are a number of other factors that may account for any gender differences in musculoskeletal discomfort, including the finding that females report spending more hours per week using a computer. Further study to identify the contribution of each factor, both in males and females, would be valuable in order to understand the impact that working configuration has on musculoskeletal discomfort and injury

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posture; gender; musculoskeletal discomfort


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Union Local


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Hedge, Alan

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Fussell, Susan R.

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Human-Environment Relations

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M.S., Human-Environment Relations

Degree Level

Master of Science

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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