Mind the lap
Having the tablet on your lap means you really have to drop your head forward. This massively increases the load of all the structures in the neck. If you normally have a good posture you will notice discomfort and then pain within minutes of adopting this position. If you can do this for extended periods there is a good chance that you have been doing this type of activity for a while and that your body has already started to adapt. “Yay!” I hear you say. Unfortunately, this is not good, as these adaptations are actually the start of deformations in the neck muscles, discs and bones. This will progress to wear and tear arthritis.
Lift the tablet off your lap, if at all possible, and onto a table. This will immediately decrease the load on your neck and upper back.
Shift and move, wriggle and shuffle
In each of your joints are little position and movement sensors called mechanoreceptors. They tell the brain where each joint is in space and how it is moving. The highest density of these little sensors are in the spine (and within the spine the neck has the most out of any area in the body!). When you adopt a posture or sitting position, after a while you’ll get sensations telling you to move. Listen to these “voices”: shuffle, shift, fidget and move.
It’s when we are engrossed in a task and ignore these healthy signals that we start doing damage. This “soft trauma” is a major cause of visits to my chiropractic clinic.
If you aren’t that “body aware” then a general rule is to shift your position every 15 minutes.
Use a stand
Many tablet cases or covers have built in stands. Ideally these should have a few settings to allow for multiple angles so you can adjust for table height and seat set up. Propping the tablet up decreases the “looking down” posture and can also help with glare.
Use a keyboard
Tablets were designed for multi-media interaction not for word processing. If you’ve ever tried to do lots of typing on an iPad you will know what I’m talking about. The keypad is small and wrists and fingers are put in awkward positions when tapping the screen. The device also has to be quite flat, again, making you look down. I quickly realised that using my iPad for even short letters or reports was not going to work. I bought a Bluetooth keyboard (for about £40) which allowed me to: 1) prop the iPad up to improve my neck angle and 2) type without my fingers and wrists getting sore and tired. Some tablets have an add-on Keyboard-Stand that makes the device feel more like a small laptop and sorts out the 2 above problems, in one.
I hope these tips help you decrease your aches and pains. They will certainly help your overall spinal health.
If you have any questions or comments please use the boxes bellow.
Tim Wood (Doctor of Chiropractic & Wellness Physiologist)