How to Prevent iPad Shoulder Pain

Placing your tablet on a higher surface, such as on a table, will improve your posture, according to the study. (Image credit: Tablet photo | shutterstock)

If your shoulder hurts after using your tablet, you may be able to ease the discomfort by changing how you hold the device, a new study shows.

Compared with users of desktop computers, tablet users are more likey to sit in a flexed posture — which can lead to neck and shoulder discomfort — because of the low angle at which people tend to hold their head and neck while viewing a tablet's screen, the researchers said.

Placing the tablet on a higher surface, such as on a table rather than on your lap, will improve your posture, according to the study, which was conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Microsoft Corporation and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

In the study, 15 experienced tablet users completed a series of tasks using two media tablets — the Apple iPad2 and the Motorola Xoom. Each tablet had a case that could be adjusted to tilt it, or prop it up.

The participants used the tablets in four typical user positions: they placed a tablet in their laps while also holding it in their hands, they held it on their laps and in a case, they had it on a table and in a case, and they used it resting atop a table and in a case set at a high angle, fit for watching movies.

In each position, the participants completed simple computer tasks, such as browsing the Internet and playing games. Their head and neck postures, gaze angles and distance from the tablet were measured using a motion-analysis system.

The findings showed that the users' posture was best when the devices were set at their steepest angle. This suggests that users should place tablets on a surface that is higher than their lap, such as on a table, to avoid low gaze angles. They should also use a case that provides steeper viewing angles, the researchers advised.

However, the study showed that steeper angles may be detrimental for tasks requiring your hands, such as typing a long email. The researchers said that further studies examining the effects of tablet placement on users' posture are needed.

"Our results will be useful for updating ergonomic computing standards and guidelines for tablet computers," study researcher Jack T. Dennerlein of the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement.

The study was published in the January issue of Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation.

Pass it on: Placing your tablet computer on a table rather than on your lap and using a tablet cover with a steep tilt angle may ease shoulder discomfort.

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Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.