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Top tips to reduce pain when using a tablet device

With more people using the simplicity of smart phones and tablet devices, an increasing numbers of patients are reporting musculoskeletal complaints due to excessive use of these devices.    Check out our top tips to reduce pain when using a tablet device.

The Relationship between Posture and Injury when Using a Tablet

When using a tablet, greater stress and strain is placed on the neck and upper back compared to using a desktop computers.  Looking downwards to see the tablet screen places extra strain through your shoulder, upper back and neck muscles, discs, ligaments and joints.

Another common area of injury is the wrist.  Greater stress and strain is placed on the wrist due to the need to excessively bend the wrist backwards with the use of a touch screen. In addition, the hand commonly holding the tablet is also positioned awkwardly.  This places excessive rotation on the wrist and also a sustained stretch on the thumb.  These end of range wrist and hand positions place excessive stress and strain on the surrounding tendons, muscles, ligaments and joints.  As a result tablet-users have a much higher risk of wrist and hand injuries such as tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome and De Quervain’s synovitis.

How do I Prevent Injury from Prolonged Tablet Use

  1. As much as possible attempt to maintain a neutral sitting posture with shoulders relaxed, neck in neutral and arms close by side
  2. Position yourself and your tablet so that you minimise looking down for extended periods. Ideally the tablet is positioned just below eye level
  3. Place your tablet on a stand when able to improve the viewing angle
  4. Use a separate, portable keyboard when typing on the tablet for extended periods of time to limit the sustained wrist extension position
  5. Take frequent rest breaks and change postures regularly
  6. Maintain neutral wrist position and alternate hands when typing or holding the tablet

Key Points

  • Prolonged tablet use may place you at greater risk of neck and wrist related injuries if used poorly
  • Tablet users have seen to adopt neck and wrist postures that are outside of the neutral/protective ranges
  • Common conditions include injury to the joints and muscles of the neck and wrist as such as tennis elbow, carpal tunnel and De Quervain’s synovitis
  • Aim to take regular breaks from the tablet every 20 – 30 minutes
  • If regularly using a tablet with school or work, see one of a physiotherapists for a range of preventative stretching and strengthening exercises