Study Finds iPad Usage Can be a Real Pain in the Neck

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself using my iPad in some pretty awkward positions in my lap, which has led to back, neck, and shoulder pain after long periods of time.

According to a study that was recently published in Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation, I’m not alone. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Microsoft Corporation, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have discovered that an improper posture when using your iPad can lead to aches and pains.

In order to avoid neck and shoulder strain, it’s important to keep the iPad out of your lap, which causes you to gaze downwards. Your head and neck posture will improve when the iPad is placed at a higher level, which avoids low gaze angles. A proper case or stand is key.

To conduct the study, researchers watched fifteen experienced tablet owners complete a series of simulated tasks with both the Apple iPad 2 and the Motorola Xoom, with a case that could be adjusted to different angles. The iPad’s Smart Cover adjusted to 15 and 73 degrees, while the Motorola Portfolio adjusted to 45 and 63 degrees.

Four viewing configurations were tested  – in the lap with no case, case in the lap with the low angle case setting, case on the table with the low angle setting, and tablet on the table with the higher angle case setting – while participants participated in activities like Internet browsing, game playing, and movie watching.

As participants used the tablets in various angles doing different things, their head/neck posture, gaze angle, and distance were measured with a 3D motion analysis system. All of the case angles caused head and neck flexion that was greater than that in desktop or notebook computing, except when the tablets were placed on a table with the highest angle setting.

At this point, their postures became more neutral, prompting the researchers to conclude that the best way to use your tablet is on a table, rather than a lap, to keep from succumbing to low gaze angles.

If you’re frequently experiencing pain in your neck and shoulders, raising your iPad’s position seems to be the way to alleviate your improper pain-causing posture.

About Juli: Contact me via Twitter: @julipuli

  • Anonymous

    But Microsoft Corporation wouldn’t have any nefarious reason for slamming tablets (i.e. iPad)… would they? 😉

  • SuperZADL

    Because books have been so terrible ergonomically. 

  • Anonymous

    What they should have said is the best when to use a tablet at a table is on the table. Most folks who use it elsewhere when in the lap are leaning backward.

  • Anonymous

    This is a STUPID STUDY.  Of course – reading at an awkward angle will cause postural problems.  Duh.

    The study should have also said READING THE BIBLE at an awkward angle can cause neck and shoulder pain.  Of course, that wouldn’t garner the eyeballs that saying the same thing for the iPad would get.

    People generally read on the iPad at an angle that they would use to read a book.  The best angle is not flat on your lap like these researchers point out.  You have to angle to top upwards – just like you would hold a book.  Duh.