A new study by the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Nevada linked bad posture from slouching while using tablet computers as the biggest contributor behind persistent neck and shoulder pain, commonly referred to as “iPad neck”.
According to the article released in The Journal of Physical Therapy Science, the increasing popularity of touchscreen tablets, such as the iPad, for school, business or personal use have led to poor head and neck posture which puts significant strain on the body, leading to discomfort.
“Theoretically, the more hours you spend bent over an iPad, the more neck and shoulder pain you experience — but what we found is that time is not the most important risk factor. Rather, it’s gender and specific postures” said UNLV physical therapy professor and lead author of the study Szu-Ping Lee to UNLV News Center.
According to the survey that was conducted by UNLV researchers, 84 percent of participants experienced the common signs of discomfort associated with tablet usage. Stiffness, soreness and aching in the neck and the upper back shoulder area were reported as the most commonly experienced symptoms.
Results showed that a large percentage of young adults suffered from pain and discomfort because of the constant usage of electronic devices in compromised positions. Noting that students usually lack permanent workstations and rely on sitting in areas with no back support.
“Our results showed that using the tablet computer in more uncommon postures such as lying on the side or on the back was significantly associated with symptoms. This was in agreement with previous findings that non-neutral joint angles from non-desk usage of laptop computers can lead to greater levels of discomfort” said the report.
“One’s posture often depends on the available supporting surfaces and environments (e.g. holding a device in hand while sitting in a chair). Prolonged cervical flexion is commonly observed when the tablet computer is placed flat on a desk or when held in a position below eye level. This may cause the cervical extensor muscles to lengthened and put a larger load on these muscles. It is logical that the postures users assume when using tablet computers can have implications for developing neck and shoulder symptoms.”
Additionally, the study also found that women had a higher risk of suffering from iPad neck. According to the data, neck pain associated with tablets is more prevalent in women with 70 percent of women who participated in the study experiencing symptoms, with only 29.9 percent of male participants experiencing. The study speculates that gender differences such as measurements and proportions of the human body may explain the disparity but nothing conclusive.
With the increasing usage of iPads, iPhones and all kinds of other electronic devices, one should be informed as to how to prevent shoulder and neck strains. Creating a comfortable and safe environment for studying or working could prevent future injuries. Here are a few suggestions to help you avoid unnecessary discomfort.
1 Sit in a chair with back support.
As easy as it sounds, usage of tablets and phones often occur in places that don’t offer any back support. Sit on a chair or a bench; avoid places that will compromise your posture.
2 Use an iPad stand.
3 Take frequent breaks.
Stand up, stretch and take a little walk. Giving your back a break every so often will keeps you neck and shoulders pain free. Remember, it is not the screen time but the posture that triggers the pain.