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Students: "Laptop-itis" Can Cause "Debilitating Physical Problems," Says UNC Doctor

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Is this student in the danger zone for "laptop-itis?" (istockphoto) istockphoto

(CBS) As if students didn't have enough to worry about, a new warning suggests that laptop computers may be causing them serious harm.

Doctors at the Chapel Hill School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC) call it "laptop-itis," and in their opinion "incorrect posture and computer overuse can cause debilitating physical problems, such as sore muscles or repetitive stress injuries. Typing can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome, an injury to the nerve that passes through the wrist."

That comes from Dr. Kevin Carneiro from the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

"When you use a laptop, you have to make some sort of sacrifice," Carneiro said in a warning to incoming students.

What to do?

The best plan, says Carneiro, is to get a docking station which mimics a desktop computer. And when using a laptop, "your body should form 90-degree angles at your elbows, knees and hips. Meanwhile, your eyes should look straight ahead at the top third of the screen."

Here's more from Carneiro's cheat sheet:

Avoid Heavy Laptops: When testing them out, remember you will be adding heavy books to that backpack too.

Get the Right Chair: For dorm rooms that means an adjustable chair with back support.

Position is Everything: Position the laptop so it's directly in front of you and you can see the screen without bending your neck.

Don't Mouse Around: Make sure your mouse is positioned so the wrist is in a neutral position. It's important that the wrists and elbows are supported.

Warning Signs: If you experience headaches at the top of the head, neck and shoulder pain, wrist pain and finger tingling, be careful.  You may need to take more breaks, improve your posture and if it persists, see a doctor.

Carneiro has more advice for new students Grab the full "laptop-itis" list from UNC.

Here are some more tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.