4 tips for preventing neck strain when using a tablet computer

Using a tablet computer shouldn’t be a pain in the neck. For all too many people, though, it is just that, along with a pain in the shoulders and back. Why? Widely popular tablets like the iPad, Nook, Kindle Fire, and Xoom are so light and easy to handle that you can hold one on your lap or in your hand. That can put you in a position that’s bad for your neck, shoulders, and back.

You may have used trial-and-error to find tablet positions that work for you. Dr. Jack Dennerlein and his colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health have brought technology to bear on the problem. Using a sophisticated infrared 3-D motion analysis system, they tracked how different tablet positions affect the body.

They asked 15 experienced tablet users to perform various tasks on an iPad or a Xoom. The tablets had special cases that could be adjusted to prop them up at specific angles. Each volunteer browsed the Internet, responded to email, played games, and watched a movie with the tablet on his or her lap and on a table at different angles. (You can see the positions here.)

The researchers found that working with a tablet held on the lap or placed flat on a table makes the neck bend much more than does working with a desktop or notebook computer. Neck-wise, the best tablet orientation was having it propped up on a table. (Whether this will be good for the hands and wrists is grist for future work.)

Dr. Dennerlein offers several tips for easing neck strain while working with a tablet computer.

  • Place the tablet on a table.
  • Use a case that holds it at a comfortable viewing angle.
  • Shift your hands, your weight, or even stand up when you can.
  • Take a break every 15 minutes.

As I write in the October issue of the Harvard Health Letter, good posture is equally important when using a notebook or desktop computer. You can read the full story on the Harvard Health Letter website, www.health.harvard.edu/health.

Related Information: Neck and Shoulder Pain


  1. Rosie Bennett

    I have definitely noticed I have had more neck pain when using my iPad than my desktop computer, though due to poor posture I still get back pain here. It seems to be the curse of the modern age. Thanks for the tips.


  2. Kelly

    Great post. Thanks very much for giving this info..

  3. Deco

    Great post !
    I have some neck problem with my computer, may be i need a break sometime

  4. hasbul maimanah

    Good tips, you could greatly impact the discovery for me and everyone in the world who work with these products, because all this time I felt tremendous pain in the neck, I will bookmark your site

  5. Jack Dawsons

    This is very informative Heidi. I am promoting Kindle Fire products in my website/blogs and I am looking some downsides that I can tell to my readers/visitors. Luckily, I stumbled upon your article. I will relay these to my blog posts to help my visitors decide whether tablets will be good for their everything life.

    Regards from Belgium!

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  7. Jhon Harris

    excellent post..very informative..thanks for sharing excellent information.

  8. Anonymous

    Yes, there are a number of ways you can strain your neck. Sometimes from long term effects of poor posture while working or sleeping. The reference has illustrations of different neck muscles and probl

  9. Charles Miske

    I wrote my most recently published ebook on a Xoom tablet in a hotel room in Cheget Russia while attempting to climb Elbrus (one of the seven summits, highest point of Europe) and I think two of the most important lessons I learned by trial and error are:

    Take frequent breaks – tablets wake from “sleeping” very quickly

    Change positions often – I sat cross-legged on the bed, laid on the bed, sat on the edge of the bed with my feet on the floor, and all worked well enough.

    You mentioned these, and I have to concur – great suggestions we’d all do well to heed.


  10. Rakesh

    The tips are really very useful and this helps to remove the stress of the neck and other parts of body, as i also use computers on every day so i am suffering from same issue, it will also be helpful for me.

  11. IM2011Direct

    Totally agree. Sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time will strain not only the neck but other parts of the body as well in the long run. The advent of mobile devices nowadays has shared with the burden of giving people more injuries than necessary. That’s why tips on this blog post is helpful to prevent injuries from happening. Thanks for sharing this post.

  12. Daniel

    Because I own a paint contracting company and rely heavily on online marketing, I spend a lot of time on tablets and slate pcs. I noticed that I used to get neck pain until I started using stands. You have to be careful with your back and neck because it doesn’t take much to throw them off.

  13. abhishek

    great post!i have already purchased a small bed table to work on laptop to prevent neck pain.

  14. Gahanna mobile apps

    Very exclusive post. i am happy to know about the site. because it is helpful for me. thanks.

  15. Roxanne McGahey

    what an interesting article Heidi. After reading your post it makes perfect sense to have the tablet propped up on a table. As a musician and piano teacher I am very aware of anything that will produce tension or strain on the body.

    Isn’t so true that we often forget that it is necessary to take frequent breaks to reduce strain. Thank you for the reminder. Music Theory Online is my business, and because we are working with children and young adults it is extremely important that they develop excellent strategies for working on their laptops. As younger and younger children are working on tablets, netbooks, and computers it becomes increasingly important that they are doing it correctly.

    Once again Heidi thank you for this great post. I found it extremely interesting. I hope you don’t mind if I send some traffic your way and share it with some of my colleagues and friends. Thanks againg – I found it very inspirational.

  16. Vanessa

    Finally, I got the reason why my neck is paining? I was wondering before reach on this post but now got the reason and the solution too. thanks for sharing all these information. that helps me a lot. and I’m sure everyone will appreciate you for this.

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