More and more people are getting hooked on tablet computers like the iPad. By 2015, there may be as many as 80 million tablet users in the United States alone.
The simplicity of the sleek hand-held devices can make life easier. But for some, a tablet can literally be a pain in the neck.
In a recent study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at whether using a tablet in various seating configurations can cause head and neck strain. They found that using a tablet on your lap for extended periods may raise the risk of neck and shoulder discomfort and potential musculoskeletal problems.
The scientists studied 15 experienced tablet users in their natural viewing positions. Placing a tablet on the lap created the greatest strain, the researchers found, because it forces the user to look down at a steep angle, causing head and neck flexion – a particular hazard for users who are doing a lot of typing.
People can hold tablets in a more upright position while watching a movie, but generally the screen has to be held flatter for the user to type, which causes more flexion and potentially more head and neck strain.
One way to minimize the problem is to use a case that props up the screen to a better viewing angle when you don’t need to type. Even better would be to prop it up on a table. The more elevated the tablet, the less you have to strain your neck to see the screen.
The bottom line
Keeping a tablet like the iPad in your lap can tax neck muscles, but propping it up on a case or table can lessen the strain.