Too much tablet use can lead to neck injury: Study

Tablet use requires significant head and neck bending and has implications for potential neck injury to users, according to a recent study.
The authors evaluated the head-neck biomechanics during tablet use, the implications for the neck musculature and future ergonomics recommendations.

Past research has highlighted a link between increased head and neck bending and pain. Increased activation of neck extensor muscles leave them vulnerable to fatigue and therefore pain, found the study, published in the journal Ergonomics.

"It is not clear though if more risk is associated with type of computer, activity (web browsing, emailing etc.) or if differences in head mass, height and/or neck muscle strength, often associated with gender, are pivotal," the authors said.

The authors conducted a study of 33 university students who use tablets at least 50 per cent of the time. Users were tested in a variety of usage positions and while reading and typing for two to five minutes. Radiographs and external joint angle measurements were used to assess gravitational demand on the neck and biomechanical ergonomics of the head-neck system during tablet use.

The authors discovered that tablet use increases mechanical demand on neck muscles by three to five times more than a neutral position. Using a tablet flat or on the lap also had this effect as compared to propped up, but whether the subject was reading or typing had little effect on level of neck strain; head-neck demand is independent of hand position, the study found.

“Our findings are important for developing ergonomics guidelines for tablet computer use because they provide quantitative information about the mechanical requirements of the head–neck musculature, which are directly linked to mechanisms of pain-related problems, under several tablet computer usage conditions," the authors said.

They urge more research to include further variables such as extent and frequency of use and posture, all of which could be significant in inducing neck pain after tablet use.