Poor posture - Pain using computers, tablets, and phones

Avoid Painful Postures

Neck pain and associated symptoms can affect all ages, and the increased use of laptops, tablets, and mobile devices can produce a higher risk of developing these symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain around the neck/back, shoulders, elbows, wrist/hands
  • Stiffness of any of the joints in those areas
  • Sensations of numbness or tingling in the hands/feet
  • Headache
  • Restricted movement

What you can do

There are ways to reduce and prevent symptoms by improving our habits and behaviour. Here is some advice related to the use of portable devices:-

Laptop computer

  • Avoid poking your chin - this can cause stiffness in your lower neck or strain of your upper neck.
  • Where possible, place on a desk/table - to avoid slouching.
  • Avoid using on your lap for long periods - as long periods with your neck in a very flexed position can cause pain around your neck and shoulders due to fatigue of postural muscles. Postural muscles work more efficiently if your spine is in a neutral position.
  • Consider using a separate keyboard/monitor to ensure your neck/shoulders are in a good position- it is often necessary to raise the height of the screen to maintain an upright head and neck posture, but this would usually mean that the attached keyboard would then be too high for your hands and may lead to pain in the shoulder or strain around the wrist/hand.
  • Ensure you have the correct eye wear for reading the screen to avoid tilting your head or poking out your chin, e.g. varifocals may cause you to tilt your head upwards.
  • If using on a train, break regularly to move your neck/shoulders.

Tablets and Electronic Readers

  • Avoid twisting your neck or upper body when using.
  • Try resting the device on a cushion/lap tray on your knee to keep your head central and your arms relaxed. This helps to take the weight off your neck/shoulder muscles.
  • Place the device so that the screen is tilted towards you.
  • Avoid typing for long periods - consider using a separate keyboard.
  • If using whilst in bed - use pillows to ensure an upright posture and it may help to place a pillow under your knees. Avoid lying on your side to use.

In general - remember the following:-

  • Take regular breaks and vary your tasks to avoid repetition
  • Monitor your posture - imagine there is a piece of string through your body up to the ceiling which helps to keep you upright with relaxed shoulders.

Gentle exercises can help

  • Regularly move your neck each way to keep it mobile.
  • Cross your arms over your chest and gently twist your upper body, holding the position gently in each direction for 20 seconds.
  • With your thumbs pointing upwards, open your arms out to the side until you feel a gentle stretch at the front of your chest.
  • Heat packs can also help relieve the tension in tight muscles in the neck/back. Avoid over-heating and wrap in a towel. Apply for around 15 minutes.

REMEMBER: Neck pain is rarely serious but if you have concerns about persistent pain or headaches, you should consult your Doctor. Chartered Physiotherapists can help you to improve your posture and prevent problems.

If you would like any further advice please do not hesitate to contact us on 0191 2840087.

This information has been compiled in conjunction with the CSP (Chartered Society of Physiotherapy).