Common questions about back pain and computing answered

Back pain is a term that encompasses lots of different conditions, which might include chronic conditions such as arthritis or temporary conditions such as a pulled muscle in your back. According to Bupa, one in three people will have back pain at some time of our life.  When it comes to computing and back pain we are often asked for hints and tips and, of course we’d always recommend that you get checked out by a medical professional.

Copyright <a  data-cke-saved-href="">Andrey href="">Andrey Popov</a> | <a  data-cke-saved-href="" href="" title="Stock Photos"></a>How can using a computer benefit someone with back pain?

If you have chronic back pain and find it difficult to go out because you have impaired mobility you can use a computer to make it easier for you to obtain goods and services over the internet. A good example is online shopping.  Lots of people find it really difficult and tiring to get shopping from the supermarket. However a lot of the leading supermarket chains now offer online delivery and they will bring the shopping right to the door.

Also if you find that you have back pain you might find that using alternative technology can help you to make better use of your computer.  An important point to remember is that posture and seating can also have an impact on your back.

I have really severe back pain and need to take a lot of time lying down.  How can I use a computer?

There are really two answers to this question. The first answer is that you can use your compute as much or as little as you need. If you can only use your computer in little micro-bursts then that is fine.  We’ve had people calling the helpline who can only use their computer for 10 minutes at a time.  If that strategy works for you then that is great.

Lots of people do use voice recognition when they are reclining in bed. As long as you can see the computer screen, you can effectively control your computer.  Some clients find that they benefit from a screen that is mounted on a bracket so it is easier for them to see.   With the advent of new, smaller technology you can even prop yourself up on your elbows or arms to use voice recognition.   However whatever you decide to do you need to make sure your computer use is not causing you unnecessary pain.

I want to keep my keyboarding skills up but I find hitting the keys sometimes causes me pain. What can I do?

There are many different types of keyboards available with differing functionality. Some of require a really light touch and have a rubberised keyboard.   There are also different sized keyboards and a lot of people with back problems like to use keyboards that are known as “compact keyboards” which are considerably smaller than a traditional keyboard.   Another useful thing to consider might be Auto complete and auto text

Case study

Ben has got severe back pain and he has had to take early retirement from his manual job. He still wants to use a keep in touch with friends and family. We chatted through different options including voice recognition which is built in his computer. He worked through our My Computer My Way section and managed to start voice recognition and use it effectively. We also suggested that he used a more ergonomic chair and took more breaks in his work.

How can we help?

AbilityNet provides a range of services to help disabled people and older people.

Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.

If you are in work your employers have a responsibility to make Reasonable Adjustment.   For more details on this have a look at and

Arrange a home visit. We have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.

We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.

My Computer My Way. A free interactive guide to all the accessibility features built into current desktops, laptops, tables and smartphones.