Headaches, pain between the shoulder blades, down the arms and through the fingers are symptoms that could indicate that your child may be too attached to their smart phone or tablet and may be suffering from iPad neck or iPad shoulder.
Although in recent years we have become more aware of proper posture especially while using desktop computers in an effort to reduce and avoid computer related neck and back pain, the arrival of portable devices and therefore smaller screens has made ergonomic principles much more difficult to follow. Few can argue with the fact that our lives are now much easier because of portable technology, however this has definitely come at a cost.
The use of smart phones and tablets encourages poor posture and upper back and neck strain. This is because our necks are forced into a forward position whilst looking down at the small screen. Often these devices are used in awkward positions like slouching on the sofa or lying down in bed leading to further strain on the soft tissues in the back of the neck.
Initially these awkward positions cause little more than discomfort which can easily be relieved by simply changing position or by a few simple stretches. However, prolonged incorrect posture will gradually lead to more severe issues which are not as easily relieved and often need some form of treatment.
It is important to remember that we have one back that has to last a lifetime so here are some tips to help you and your children avoid neck and back pain because of technology.
- Be mobile and avoid staying stuck in the same position for long periods. More than 20 minutes in the same position begins to strain the back. Therefore changing position and stretching the neck every 20 minutes can help reduce this strain.
- Support your back with a small cushion or rolled up towel when sitting down to use a tablet and promote correct posture. Slouching in the lower back automatically puts strain on the neck and can cause pain in between the shoulder blades, the neck and eventually even down the arms.
- Place your tablet on a table and on its stand during use. Tablets now come in cases allowing them to be positioned at a 45 degree angle. By placing the tablet on a table and on its stand you can use the screen without looking downwards therefore maintaining proper alignment of the neck on the rest of the body.
- Use your tablet less and exercise more.
Nicky de Gabriele is a musculoskeletal physiotherapist at the Physiotherapy Centre in St. Julian’s. She is married and mother of a 13 year old girl and an 11 year old boy.