Does using your tablet give you shoulder pain?

Hand in hand with the increase of the use of tablet devices over the past few years is the rise in head and neck pain and posture issues according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

How can using a tablet lead to problems?

A spokesperson for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Sammy Margo tells us why: “tablets were designed to be used for people on the go, for small episodes of fast interaction, not for lengthy periods of social networking or hours of writing.”

Professor Philip Conaghan, Professor of Musculoskeletal Medicine at the University of Leeds adds “in the past, bad posture with resulting neck and shoulder problems was commonly attributed to those using computers at work but these days people using a tablet for hours of an evening slouched on a sofa or slumped in bed are also affected.”

“As more and more of us find ourselves absorbed by our tablets or smartphones with our heads down, tapping away we may be compounding the problem by adding tension pressure” says Janet Wakely, Pain Nurse Specialist.

Is it RSI or altogether different?

Traditionally, common RSI problems are tendonitis in the back of the wrist and elbow, and the biomechanical spread causes too much strain in the shoulders and neck, which in turn leads to pain.  But these days physiotherapists are seeing increasing problems in the fingers, shoulder, neck and upper arm which are linked directly to the use of smaller devices such as tablets.

Sammy Margo tells us “headaches and neck pain also commonly occur after prolonged periods in the wrong position.”

Is it really a major problem?

Professor Conaghan tells us that to date, not enough studies have been undertaken to evaluate the true effect of using tablets but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that sitting in an unnatural position for any length of time such as with a tablet on your lap, has led to new types of problems.

“Soft tissue pain is not nice,” says Professor Conaghan, “and can affect anyone through poor posture but the fitter, stronger and healthier you are the less likely you are to suffer.” “Those people who use their limbs in activities, such as swimming, will have fewer problems.”

There is however, a light at the end of the tunnel.  RSI issues may potentially be avoided in the future with the increasing ways of using our devices differently, such as voice recognition and sliding as opposed to tapping.

Ways to avoid pain

  • Good posture is key – sit as tall as you can, slide your shoulders down and engage your core muscles
  • The best way to use your table is placed on a table, propped at an angle.  Make sure you are also sitting with your back supported (you can achieve this by placing a cushion at the small of your back) and avoid using your table in bed, especially if you are lying on your side!
  • Take regular breaks, every 15 minutes and stretch the muscles in the shoulders and chest.  Get your circulation going by moving around.
  • If you would like to avoid typing then try installing a voice recognition app.
  • If you find you are doing lots of typing then try and use both hands – touch typing is best if you can but try to tap lightly on the keyboard.

Click here for some healthy back exercises which you may like to include into your day.

This iBeani is a great product that you can prop your device on to keep it hands-free, and comes in a range of colours and patterns.


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19th Nov 2019
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I use a tablet, or my phone as a tablet, a lot. Many people don't realise that you can buy a low cost stand for both tablet and smartphone. You can also use a cheap bluetooth keyboard with a tablet. If it is an Android device you can also use a bluetooth mouse.

Add a padded tray for your lap and you can make a much more comfortable setup which can take much of the strain off your shoulders and back.

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