Postural Risks and musculoskeletal discomfort of three preferred positions during laptop use amongst students

PA Hough, Mariette Nel


The need to access information technology in modern day occupations has encouraged the use of laptops on a daily basis.  It is assumed that using a laptop in a static position over a prolonged period of time may cause postural risk as well as musculoskeletal discomfort.  A previous study identified 3 most preferred positions assumed during laptop use.  This study investigates the postural risk involved during laptop use by students while assuming these 3 preferred positions.  It also investigates the musculoskeletal discomfort experienced by students during laptop use as well as the methods students use to alleviate this discomfort.  A quantitative, cross-sectional study design was used amongst a sample of 72 third year academic students from the University of the Free State. Data was collected by means of a self-administered questionnaire and the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment tool (RULA).  For all 3 positions, 69.1% of participants scored in the postural risk category 3-4, indicating a low postural risk.  Most (62.5%, n=45) participants experienced musculoskeletal discomfort with regard to pain or numbness, stiffness and spasms with 95% CI for prevalence [ 51.0% ; 72.8%].  Stiffness in the neck was experienced by 47.2% (n=34) participants and spasms in the neck experienced by 44.4% (n=32).  Tendencies and statistical significant differences are indicated between genders for adaptations made during laptop use.  A recommendation for further studies could be to investigate the postural risk involved while the students assume their most preferred posture within the 3 positions.

 KEYWORDS:  laptop, university students, Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA), postural risk, musculoskeletal discomforts

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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