Three Simple Ergonomics Tips for Tablet and Smartphone Users

Young woman looking at modern tabletNot so long ago I was in a restaurant with a friend when we ended up discussing the ergonomics of smartphone and tablet devices. My friend had just visited her doctor to complain about her increased neck pain and aches in her left wrist and forearm.

The culprit was her new Nokia Lumia smart phone. The doctor had remarked that holding your arms elevated for long periods of time to be able to use the smart phone creates considerable strain for the neck muscles.

I find it somewhat ironic that the very gadgets that are supposed to free us from the constraints of time and space actually create more pain and discomfort for us.

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Luckily, things aren’t necessarily all that bad – if you take heed of the following three simple tips you can considerably decrease the discomfort that is caused by smartphone and tablet use. Getting some ergonomics accessories will help even more.

Tip 1: Hold your neck in a neutral position

The biggest problem with tablet and smartphone use is the way they are usually held. Placing the tablet or smartphone in your lap – or on any low platform – and bending your neck down to see the screen puts serious strain on your neck muscles.

And if you let your head hang merely by the muscles and tendons of your neck, it’s even worse.

iZelstand

Movaic’s iZel smartphone stand

The ergonomically optimal way to use a tablet is to keep your neck positioned straight on top of the your spine, or at least as close to that position as possible. Using a portable stand makes ergonomic use of smartphones and tablets easier. The best tablet and smartphone stands allow you to adjust the viewing angle so that you’re able to watch the screen without bending your neck.

akrons-tablet-stand

Arkon’s portable tablet stand

Good choice for a smartphone stand is Movaic’s iZel (right). It’s good for smartphones like iPhone, Zune and Blackberry and other mobile devices like iPod. Click here get a better look on iZel stands.

Akron’s adjustable tablet stand (left) is a good and affordable choice for tablet users. Click here to see it on Amazon.

Tip 2: Keep your wrists in a neutral position

Using your smartphone or tablet computer with your wrists bent is a major source of stress for your wrists and forearms. Also, using the tiny keyboard that comes with the device forces your fingers in awkward positions. Using your thumb to type endless text messages can lead to repetitive stress injury.

ankers ultra slim mini wireless keyboard

Anker’s ultra slim wireless keyboard

Getting an external keyboard for your smartphone or tablet is a good idea. Anker’s Ultra Thin Mini Wireless keyboard is a good choice for most modern tablets and smartphones. Click here for more information on the keyboard.

External keyboards are thin and lightweight and easy to take with you wherever you go.

Tip 3: Take regular breaks

One of the most important ergonomics rules is to avoid using your devices for long periods of time. Even though smartphones and tablet computers are relatively lightweight, holding your arms lifted for long periods of time still puts strain on your muscles.

Remember to take regular breaks and move around.

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To put it in a nutshell: keeping your head aligned on top of the spine, your wrists straight while using your tablet or smartphone,  and taking regular breaks is going to keep you out of harms way.

In a long run, it’s wiser to invest in a few good ergonomics accessories than spend your money in an endless stream of chiropractor visits.

Comments

  1. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! Very good tips and nice examples of products that could alleviate the problem.

    I am a person who really never has aches and pains at all, except for the thumb that got broken last year. After wrapping Christmas presents for 4 hours in a row, it was quite sore.

    Which brings us to what I think is your best point: take regular breaks. I’m an antzy person who can’t sit still for more than 20 minutes (which is pushing it!) Even during sleep, I frequently shift my sleeping position. I think that this is a main reason why I normally don’t have these issues.

    🙂 Marion

    • Satu says:

      You’re a freak of nature, Marion! I don’t think there are many people who have sedentary jobs and who don’t suffper from shoulder and neck problems these days!

      You’re right about taking breaks. My biggest probelm is that sometimes I forget myself when I’m working on some technical problem. I always end up with a very bad posture if I work on something for hours on end.

  2. The sore neck is an issue for me Satu – also because I wore contact lenses for distance – by the end of the day I struggled to read anything at a close distance and so used to hold my arms in a strange position on the train coming home from work in order to see my phone.

    I like the reminder about regular breaks though. I need to remember to do that more often!

    Deb

    • Satu says:

      Hi Deb!

      I haven’t yet had those problems with my eyesight. Interesting! 🙂

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