Tablets can certainly come in handy for parents looking to keep kids occupied on long car rides, teens wanting to check out movies or play games on a larger screen than a cell phone, or busy executives needing easy access to stats and reports. However, a potential problem with tablets is the forward neck bending people often do when using such devices. According to a new study, more than 80 percent of tablet users report experiencing some type of neck-related discomfort. If your goal is to prevent “tablet neck,” here are a few things you can do.
According to the study, sitting without back support while using a tablet dramatically increases neck pain symptoms. If you’re going to sit on the floor with your legs crossed to use your tablet, supporting your spine can be a good way to minimize forward neck bending. Just make sure your spine is supported against a wall or similar surface. When sitting down, make sure to:
• Sit fully back as you use your tablet • Avoid slouching or leaning forward • Maintain proper posture with your shoulders back and aligned with your head
If you regularly use your tablet, consider getting a tablet stand so you don’t have to continuously hold it and crane your neck. Such stands are typically designed in a way that doesn’t block the screen. Properly use a tablet stand by:
• Placing it on a flat surface in front of you • Setting it up so your tablet is at eye level • Sitting so your head is above your shoulders while you use your tablet
It’s surprisingly easy to lose track of time when using a tablet or similar electronic device. Make an effort to pause your movie or take a break from whatever you’re reading or doing on your tablet to physically get up and stretch. If you have neck pain that suddenly develops when using your tablet, switch to another activity not involving a device for a while.
If your cervical spine and the muscles or other soft tissues that support it are weak, you’re more likely to experience tablet-related neck pain. Incorporate some neck exercises into your daily workout routine to strengthen important structures in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. If you’re new to neck exercises, try these ones:
• Neck tilts – Touch your chin to your head and hold it briefly before returning your head to its normal position
• Side-to-side neck tilts – Stand up and tilt your head toward one shoulder, then switch sides to work muscles on the other side
• Neck turns – Look forward and turn your head to one side while keeping your chin at the same level, then repeat with the other side
• Neck stretches – Gently move your chin forward and stretch your throat, then move your head backward slightly to complete the stretch.
Note: With the above exercises/stretches, hold for about 5 seconds and repeat five times. Stop if you feel any unusual or sudden neck pain and discomfort.
Women are more likely than men to experience tablet neck, according to results from the study involving 400-plus students. More than half of all tablet users surveyed reported moderate symptoms of neck pain, while 15 percent said their discomfort contributed to difficulty sleeping. Nearly 50 percent of tablet users stopped using their devices when they experienced symptoms. If any of the mobile devices you use on a regular basis are contributing to neck pain that’s not going away after taking a break or trying home remedies, see your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon.
If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in your neck, it’s best to get it checked out by a professional spine surgeon to determine if you need surgery. Reach out to The Spine Institute, where Dr. Hyun Bae and his experienced professionals can help you determine if you need a procedure such as a lumbar foraminotomy. Los Angeles residents can call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.