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Archive for June 6th, 2010

Common shot of iPad showing only users lap. Image from Flickr.

By Sue Shekut, Owner,  Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist,  Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I’ve been noticing iPad advertisements all over town. I see iPads on billboards, ads on my computer and on television. Notice how the ads don’t show people sitting and using the iPad. They show people’s laps and legs and then a close up the iPad. Hmm, why hide the necks and shoulders of iPad users? My guess, because sitting hunched over a small but relatively heavy iPad makes people look pretty uncomfortable.

Ned Batchelder has a great post on the ergonomic issues of the new iPad here. Ned shows a video of someone using the iPad to make slides that shows just how awkward it is to use the iPad for data creation. Commenters say that hey, the iPad isn’t designed to be a data creation device but a data consumption device.  Do we really need separate devices for each use?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Apple fan. I’ve been using Macs since they first came out (Does anyone remember the old SE30’s with the 9″ monochrome monitor. That’s where I started. And interestingly enough that’s about the time I started needing to see a chiropractor, too.) But as slick as Apple’s touch screen iPod’s and iPad s are and are, they really cause a world of hurt for users’ necks and shoulders.

Whats Wrong With iPad?

1. iPad/iPod devices are small and relatively lightweight. So at first glance you may think, hey, it won’t hurt me, it’s a device under 1 pound. But that one pound gets pretty heavy if you hold it up over time.

Try this exercise. Hold a 1 pound weight up in front of your body for 5 minutes. Bet you can’t do it. The 60 seconds may be pretty easy. But as the clock ticks, the weight gets heavier and heavier. Now think about holding that weight for an hour. Two hours.  Even try holding just a real apple for ten minutes in front of you. (An edible apple I mean.) After a while your arm gets too heavy. It’s not so much the weight of the apple or the device that gets you. It’s the weight of holding your arm in front of you for long periods.

A Woman Named Rachel "holding" the Apple logo. Image from Flickr, luckmontague's photostream.

Even though the woman above is not holding any weights, just keeping her arm up will make her arm and shoulders fatigue. quickly. It’s unlikely you anyone would use their iPad in this position, but it gives you an idea of how heavy your arm can be.

2. The “iDevices” are small and to see the screen you have to bend over them. Your neck has to crane to position your eyes over the keypad. I watched a client use her new iPad yesterday. Even though she was sitting in a comfy overstuffed chair, with her legs up, resting the iPad on my knees, she still had to lean far forward and look down at the device.   Thanks Apple for keeping massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors and orthopedic docs busy for years to come!

Even Steven Jobs will need  a neck and shoulder massage after using the iPad!  Notice in the photo below that he is holding the iPad in his hands away from his lap unlike ads for the iPad where we see people holding the iPad on their laps. It’s a trade off in whether his neck gets tired faster from craning forward or his arms and shoulders from holding the iPad closer to his face.

Even Steve Jobs Looks Uncomfortable Using the iPad Image from curiouslee at Flickr.

3. The touch screen is “cool” but it requires you to move your arm in front of your body at an awkward angle. using a keyboard already causes users to tighten their pectoral (chest) muscles a great deal. Tighter pectoral muscles often leads to muscle tension in muscles in the upper back and neck. Why? These back muscles have to compensate for the pec muscles literally pulling your body forward.

Notice how the young man pictured below is leaning far forward over his keyboard? He is engaging his pectoral muscles and the muscles in the back of his neck and upper back are straining to hold him upright. I feel safe to say he may have some neck and shoulder pain from this position. You may think your posture is much better than his But then thick about how you sit if you work on a iPad or iPod!

Image from NatBat at Flickr

I don’t doubt that the new iPad will necessitate a whole slew of new products designed to hold your iPad at a more ergonomic position. Until these come out, I recommend you use the good old Porta Book to hold your iPad at a comfortable viewing angle. The Posta Book is inexpensive, about $20, and lightweight. And it’s available here.

Or if you have a common house cat, you can make use of your pet as an iPad holder. One man did in the pic below!

Image from Flickr.

More articles on iPad ergonomics

The ErgoLab’s Apple iPad Part Deux: Don’t Shoot The Messenger
Donald Clack Plan B, iPAD: ergonomic disaster – end of story

The ErgoLab: The Apple iPad; this Apple has a few worms.

Business Inside SAI: Apple Still Hasn’t Fixed The Big Problem With The iPad: It Looks Really Uncomfortable To Use

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