How Your IPad Wrecks Your Neck

Is your iPad a pain in the neck?Is your iPad a pain in the neck?By Deborah Wilburn

You love your iPad, don't you? With a screen larger than a smartphone yet smaller than a laptop, it's the perfect companion for relaxing on the couch watching movies and reading or dropping into Starbucks while checking email and updating your Facebook status.

But the convenience of iPads and other tablet computers may come at a cost: Researchers at Harvard's School for Public Health have found that these go-anywhere digital gadgets may also contribute to neck and shoulder pain.

Take this assessment to find out what's causing your pain.

The problem comes when you position the tablet flat on a table or on your lap so it forces your head and neck to be "flexed at various low angles for long periods of time," reports a recent study in Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation.

"Compared to typical desktop computing scenarios … there may be more of a concern of neck and shoulder discomfort," says lead investigator Jack Dennerlein of Harvard's Department of Environmental Heath.

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How can you avoid "iPad shoulder?" The researchers recommend positioning the tablet on a table at its highest angle to avoid looking downward and simply attach a keyboard when you need to type.

If you've already got a pain in the neck from bad iPad ergonomics (and your doctor has confirmed that it's simple neck pain and not something more serious) strength training can help ease it. Try these 3 moves:

  • Reverse fly: Hold light to medium weights. From a seated position and leaning forward slightly, lift your arms straight out to the sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Do 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps three times a week.
  • Arm rows: Hold a light to medium weight in each hand. Stand with knees slightly bent and lean forward, keeping your back flat (don't lean farther than 90 degrees). Keep your abs tight. Bend your elbows and pull the weights upward until dumbbells are level with your waist. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lift. Do 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps three times a week.
  • Upright rows: Stand straight, knees soft, with a light to medium weight in each hand. Grip the weights with your arms straight and palms facing back. Bend elbows outward and upward, lifting the dumbbells straight up until the weights are at chest height (with elbows pointing outward). Avoid shrugging your shoulders as you lift. Do 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps three times a week.

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