iPad, Tablet: Neck Pain & Other Adverse Health Effects

Use tablet on a table
Researchers found both good and bad news. The good news is that people who use tablets are more inclined to move around and shift positions compared with people who sit in front of a desktop computer.

Moving—rather than sitting still in a single position—is known to prevent the types of repetitive strain injuries that afflict some long-time computer users.

The researchers then went on to identified four ways that people use tablets:

• lap-hand or holding the tablet down at your lap
• lap-case or resting the tablet in a case on your lap
• table-case or resting the tablet in its case on a shallow angle on a table
• table-movie or resting the tablet at a steep angle on a table

Finally, the study authors concluded that all positions aside from the table-movie position put a lot of strain on the user’s neck muscles.

People who want to avoid neck pain should use this table-movie position that allows the user’s posture to approach “neutral,” researchers say. This means placing the tablet on a table at a steep angle—not in your lap—to avoid looking down.

There’s an obvious hitch, though. this position isn’t ideal or possible if users perform a task that requires input with their hands.

Dennerlein’s advice for tablet users?

• “Don’t get stuck in one position!”
• Find a good case that allows you to prop up your tablet at the most comfortable angle.

Companies that distribute tablet computers to their employees should make sure they give out cases as well, in order to prevent injuries, the study author also said.

Up next: working on a tablet
Dennerlein also said his team plans to tackle next the effect of tablet computing on the arms and wrist .

“Our results will be useful for updating ergonomic computing standards and guidelines for tablet computers. Dennerlein concludes. “These are urgently needed as companies and health care providers weigh options to implement wide-scale adoption of tablet computers for business operations,” he says.

Two of the study’s authors are employees of Microsoft, long-time rival of the iPad maker, but these researchers did not contribute to the analysis and interpretation of the results.

For its report on this study, Los Angeles Times called Apple to see if they had any comment on the ergonomics on using the iPad.

“A spokesperson pointed us to a large section on ergonomics on Apple’s website,” the LA Times says in its report. “The section is impressive, but the suggestions and diagrams are all related to desktop computers, and the site did not have any recommendations on how to most safely use a tablet.”

“We called the rep to see if we had missed anything, but we didn’t hear back by press time,” it concludes.

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