Harvard Research Finds Brand-New Pains: ‘iPad Shoulder’ and ‘iPad Neck’

Using an iPad or other tablet computers can be bad for your shoulders as they encourage people to hunch over the screen, Harvard research suggests.

Owners of iPads have been warned that using them on their lap can lead to aching shoulders and necks. Photo: Kristina Alexanderson/Flickr

The millions of people who use the devices, hailed as a bridge between laptops and mobile phones, are also at risk of neck injuries, claims a new study.

The news comes in a just-published study into the posture of slab-fondlers carrying out typical tasks using slablet devices.

15 people “experienced tablet users” indulged in “simple computer tasks such as Internet browsing and reading, game playing, email reading and responding, and movie watching”, while having the various angles to which they were contorting their bodies measured by an infrared recording system, reports The Register.

The machines used were iPad 2s, with some Motorola Xooms thrown in as representative of the various other multimedia tablet makes and their unimpressive market share. Both types of slab were fitted with adjustable case/stands of the sort commonly used by fondlers.

Researchers measured the users head and neck movements throughout.

According to The Telegraph, results, published in journal Work, revealed that tablets held in the lap or propped up less caused greater head and neck flexion [bending].

Study author Dr Jack Dennerlein said: “Compared to typical desktop computing scenarios, the use of media tablet computers is associated with high head and neck flexion postures, and there may be more of a concern for the development of neck and shoulder discomfort.”

“Only when the tablets were used in the table-movie configuration, where the devices were set at their steepest case angle setting and at the greatest horizontal and vertical position, did posture approach neutral,” he said.

The iPad2 was associated with more flexed postures when it was placed in its case. This appeared to be driven by differences in case design, which drastically altered the tablet tilt angle and the corresponding viewing angle.

Daily Mail reports that head and necks were bent more in general when using the tablets than has been reported for desktop or notebook computing.

Only when the tablets were used in the Table-Movie configuration, where the devices were set at their steepest case angle setting and at the greatest horizontal and vertical position, did posture approach neutral.

“This suggests that tablet users should place the tablet higher, on a table rather than a lap, to avoid low gaze angles, and use a case that provides steeper viewing angles. However, steeper angles may be detrimental for continuous input with the hands,” Dr Dennerlein said

“Further studies examining the effects of tablet and configuration on arm and wrist postures are needed to clarify and complete the postural evaluation.”

“Our results will be useful for updating ergonomic computing standards and guidelines for tablet computers,” he added.

“These are urgently needed as companies and health care providers weigh options to implement wide-scale adoption of tablet computers for business operations.”

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