It used to be that unsuitable chairs in our office environment damaged our posture and backs. National and EU regulation ensured that businesses were legally required to provide chairs suitable for good neck and back health. Now, there is a new threat to our posture and it’s not workplace related. Informally referred to as “iPad neck”, it develops with prolonged use of tablets, smartphones, ebook readers, and laptops while using unsuitable furniture. It’s been around a lot longer than the tablet – it was once limited to students and was called “Study Neck” – but the advent of mobile technology means more people suffer from this condition.
Defining iPad Neck
Apple’s product has perhaps come in for undue criticism – after all, the medical condition now known as iPad Neck is not unique to iPad users. We spend a lot of time using them, sometimes entire evenings watching films and TV shows, surfing the internet, social media, and messenger services to talk to family who live a long way away. But few are paying sufficient attention to good back health; we are not following the same guidance given in the workplace. A study by Harvard a couple of years ago drew a strong correlation between the number of American users of tablets and the instances of back and neck pain and strain.
• The act of leaning forward creates an unnatural weight distribution and, therefore, pressure and stress on your neck and upper spine.
• This leads to pain, soreness, and stiffness along the shoulders and neck.
• This could, in turn, lead to reduced mobility, struggling to do some tasks, and potentially lost time at work.
How to Avoid iPad Neck
As with the potential back problems of prolonged seating, there are steps you can take to reduce the strain and pain you place on your neck and back:
Buy a Good Quality Case (With a Stand)
You don’t have to stop using your tablet, but medical professionals recommend that tablet users buy a good quality case. These are sold on the premise of protecting your device from damage, but they can also promote good back health. Choose a case with a stand, instead of holding the device in your hand prop it up on the table, using the stand part to take the weight of the device. This will realign your neck’s posture and encourage you to view the device in a more natural position.
Use Back Support
Another key to promoting good back health when using a tablet is to ensure you are sitting on the right type of chair during prolonged use. The most important aspect of this is the right back support. A sofa can be fine, but you may need to prop a cushion behind your head and try to lean back, perhaps sitting in a position that allows your body to relax, rather than hunching. Here, you will need to be mindful of your posture.
Take Regular Breaks
The same advice applies in the workplace as applies at home – ensure you move about regularly and take breaks away from the screen. Just a couple of minutes going to the toilet, making a drink or doing something else will promote good back health. Break up your time using your tablet, smartphone or eBook reader just as you should with any sedentary activity.
All forms of exercise are good for you. If you spend most of your time at home, it’s a good idea to devise an exercise routine in general. However, you should perhaps pay particular attention to promote good back health. Lumbar exercises, Pilates, and some types of yoga will help strengthen your core back muscles and improve posture, so you won’t experience so many problems on your neck and back.