Is using a tablet giving you neck pain & headaches? Learn how to prevent these and other injuries

Written by Michael Nicholls

The use of computer tablets has drastically increased in recent years and these devices offer users many advantages over traditional computers and laptops. However, we are also seeing a marked increase in the injury rate associated with these devices.

Most injuries associated with computer tablets are caused by users adopting poor postures whilst on these devices, especially if these postures are sustained for long periods of time. Poor postures place greater stress on our joints and muscles, which can lead to injury. The most prevalent tablet-related conditions that we see at PhysioSpot are neck pain, shoulder pain and headaches, although wrist, thumb and finger injuries are also relatively common.


So what can be done to prevent these types of injuries? The answer is plenty! Here are some practical tips to reduce your chance of sustaining a tablet-related injury:

  • Change your position regularly by alternating between sitting, standing and lying down (on your stomach propped up on forearms) whilst using your tablet. Ideally you should not spend more than 20-30minutes at a time in one position
  • Perform some gentle exercises or stretches in between the change of positions
  • Try to avoid a ‘forward’ or ‘poking’ head posture as this places much greater strain on the neck and upper back/shoulders
  • When standing, try to position the tablet approximately 30° below your line of sight and maintain a comfortable distance from the screen. Gently nod your head as if you are saying ‘yes’ and use your eyes, rather than your head, to look down to the screen. You will need to tilt the screen away from you slightly.
  • Keep your elbows tucked in by your sides and maintain 90° of elbow bend at all times
  • When using both hands to hold the tablet, try to maintain a relaxed grip and don’t pinch with your thumb and fingers. If holding the tablet with one hand (and keying with the other), regularly alternate sides. Also regularly change the finger with which you are keying.
  • Use shortcut functions and speech recognition apps (that convert to text) if possible to reduce the amount of keystrokes
  • Enlarge text to avoid leaning forwards and the resultant ‘poking’ head posture
  • When sitting, avoid placing the tablet on your lap as this ‘head down’ position places severe strain on the neck structures. Ideally, your tablet should be placed on a flat surface at eye level. This can be achieved with the use of an adjustable stand or tablet rise.
  • If portability is a requirement, look for a lightweight, height adjustable stand that is on castors for ease of movement, folds away for easy carriage/storage and is stable enough to prevent it from toppling over. Lightweight portable telescopic/gooseneck style stands are easily transferred between different surfaces and can extend to a suitable height for use in standing.
  • If word processing for long periods of time, an external keyboard is a great idea

Reference:

Queensland Department of Education and Training Oct 2017, ‘An Ergonomic Guide to Computer Tablet Use’