Your iPad and Your Neck

As a new iPad 2 owner I was rooting around the Web to see what help resources are available. I looked at cases, software reviews, and hardware accessories. What I found are a lot of photos of people with their heads bent down in an odd position while using their iPads. I thought that doesn’t look comfortable!
As I mused on ways to hold the iPad in a more comfortable position, I wondered if anyone had noticed the odd way people hold their necks while using the iPad. Lo and behold, I found a Harvard study quoted on the LA Times web site. The study, “Touch-screen tablet user configurations and case-supported tilt affect head and neck flexion angles” found that positions that users engage in while using any tablet contributes to excessive head bending which results in large muscle strains. These large muscles involve the neck and upper back and affect posture while sitting or standing.
The small study notes that the position in which you hold your iPad does affect how you feel:
Higher display locations lead to decreased head and neck flexion that approach more neutral postures; while lower gazes lead to increasingly flexed postures which are associated with an increase in neck extensor activity.
The LA Time sums up one of the problems:
“If you think about your position when you are hunched over looking down, your head is hanging out over space, so you are using your neck muscles to support the weight,” said Jack Dennerlein, director of the Harvard Occupational Biomechanics Laboratory, and lead author of the paper.
The researchers recommend that those of us who use tablets often should move around and change positions more often or try and prop your iPad on a table with a stand to reduce potential problems further down the road. While you may think this is useless advice, take a look around you. You will notice everyone with an iPhone or iPad craning their neck to look down at their screens. It may not bother you or them today or tomorrow, but in a year that cumulative use may add up to some serious neck and back pain. This also means that we should use iPad cases with built-in stands or use a separate stand to hold our iPads when possible. It’s all part of being smart about our own ergonomics of using computers and other devices.
As someone with neck issues thanks to a whiplash injury caused by a distracted driver who decided to pick up his cell phone from the floor of his car instead of stop at a red light, I find the study’s advice helpful. Apple does address the issue of ergonomics on their web site, but that has not been updated for iPad use yet.
So, the advice I give is make sure you protect your body, use your iPad wisely, and do exercises to preserve your neck and reduce strain. It’s an easy fix to a problem that may crop up as you get older no matter your current age.

Comments: 9 Responses to “Your iPad and Your Neck”

    John M. Hammer
    2/7/12 @ 2:40 pm

    I wonder if these studies compared posture and neck position during iPad use to those commonly associated with reading a book.

    2/7/12 @ 3:04 pm

    John, I found no mention of reading a book in the study; but remember a book is lighter. Also, people tend to move quite a bit adjusting their body when they read.

    You can find the text of the Harvard School of Public Health study here:
    I don’t think there were many participants.


    2/7/12 @ 5:16 pm

    I have had similar problem, then i searched the web and found this page helped me and follow the diet page. I sleep much better everything is due to muscles.

    2/7/12 @ 8:21 pm

    I find it funny you bring this up. My son, 13, came up with his own phrase to describe the neck pain of using his new iPod Touch (and could be applied to iPad as well): Apple Neck. :) I will let him know there has been a study about Apple Neck with some helpful solutions.

    Bruce John Shourt
    2/9/12 @ 12:21 pm

    The best solution which includes hands-free operation for typing is not an inexpensive one. Within a short time after starting to use an iPad 2 (which is lighter than the first version) I realized the ergonomic problem and I immediately got the Rain Design iRest (about $50). It not only holds either generation of the iPad, it also allows for an instantly changeable variable angle of viewing on your lap when you change position (legs crossed, etc.). It really shifts your upper body and neck/head sitting position to one of leaning back in a chair. I leave the tablet in the holder and easily carry it from room to room with one hand and set it down on any horizontal surface. I don’t use the included thick front cushion, though.

    Ron Johnston
    2/9/12 @ 4:58 pm

    Get a HDMI adapter and do all your reading on the TV screen. The only problem is your finger may develop a problem turning the page;))

      Bruce John Shourt
      2/9/12 @ 8:56 pm

      Unfortunately, the resolution isn’t good enough for graphics, includjng text. I’ve tried the HDMI connection directly and also via the Apple TV onto my 42″ plasma that has both 720p and 1080i. The big plasma is my only display for my 2010 Mac Mini and the view ability (seeing?, an astronomy term) is excellent, providing a “lean back” experience with the advantage of distance reading. (And I lay a keyboard on my lap and use the mouse on my theigh Steve Jobs style). But even with the iPad in landscape mode you have to zoom to enlarge text but then you have sentences that are center cut. With Google Chrome on the Mac Mini you can enlarge pages via Control + and the lines of text are reformatted to fit the 16:9 margins, something missing on the browsers for the iPad, as far as I know. For casual light reading I use the iPad in the iRest holder on my lap. For serious, long reading I use the Mac Mini. The resolution problem is only for graphics and text. With HDMI, photos and videos are OK from the iPad, but better with the Apple TV. However then you loose the pinch, zoom, and reposition functions that is terrific with photos. Then I prefer the iPad.

    2/15/12 @ 11:07 am

    Bruce, thanks for your insight on reading on a TV. Generally, I don’t think TVs are recommended as reading devices because of the the resolution issue.

    Khurram Bashir
    3/16/12 @ 2:16 am

    Recently me and my wife started having the pain in our neck and upper portion of shoulders. We tried all possible solutions and than realised that this is because of excessive use of tablet. We stopped using tablet pc and now feeling much better. But doctor has suggested a longer break so these muscles can heal up. One more thing holding tablet in one hand for longer hours is also damaging your forearm muscles. Take care of your self and thanks to Ilene for this post

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