This article appears in August Family magazine.
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Is your iPad or tablet a real pain in the neck? A new study finds that “iPad neck” is a growing problem, especially among young people and women.

“The convenience of these devices means you can take them with you, but we should be thinking of the ergonomics of using them. Just because you can use them anywhere doesn’t mean that you should be,” said Szu-Ping Lee, physical therapy professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The study found that women were 2.059 times more likely to experience muscle and neck pain than men.

“In general, women are more susceptible to muscular and skeletal issues. About 16 to 17 percent of the general population have neck pain, but the prevalence among women is 25 percent,” Lee said.

One reason why may be because women are smaller and have weaker muscles, Lee said.

“If a woman is not holding good posture, weaker muscles will get fatigued faster and they will feel the symptoms sooner,” Lee said.
Affecting everyone
“We do not have any data on how common this is, but a quick glance around at people using their tablets and phones suggests that many individuals are at risk of developing problems associated with iPad/tablet/text neck,” said Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University.

The problem is in our posture. Specifically, the forward tilting of the head when people are using a tablet or a smartphone that is laying in their lap, Hedge said.

“The effect is that the muscles of the upper back have to support the head and as the head tilts forward, this increases the load on these muscles as much as five times so that whereas when the head is in a normal erect position it weighs around 10 pounds, when it tilts forward to look down to a tablet or a phone the effective weight increases to almost 60 pounds,” Hedge said.

Tablet neck is also associated with sitting without back support such as on a bench or on the ground, or using tablets while lying on the side or back. Women are more likely than men (60 to 70 percent versus 30 percent for men) to sit on the floor and balance a tablet on their legs, Lee said.
Adjust your posture
The first signs of iPad neck are muscle and joint stiffness similar to that after a poor night’s sleep, Lee said.
Good posture is the position of “ears above the shoulder, angel wings back,” which opens up the chest, said Dr. Ken Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine.

“My message is simple: When texting and using the phone, keep your head up. When you are on your smart device, just keep your head up. Look down with your eyes and raise the device up a bit,” Hansraj said.

If a person experiences upper back or neck discomfort or headache because of using a device, things will not get better if he or she keeps working in that way. At the earliest warning sign, take immediate steps to try and change how you are working, Hedge said.