Since the introduction of the notebook or laptop computer in the 1990s, mobile computing has been a part of our daily work life. There are many types of mobile devices on the market, the most popular being the tablet computer. According to a recent study, approximately 14 percent of employers provide tablets to their employees because tablets are more functional and mobile than a conventional, desktop computer. However, when using tablets, users can easily adopt a wide variety of awkward postures, including those linked with musculoskeletal disorders.
The top two concerns—and solutions—are as follows:
Placement: Using a tablet computer can cause an increase in head and neck flexion postures (15 degrees), especially when it’s located on our lap. To reduce these awkward postures, raise the height of the tablet to increase the tilt and viewing angle. Or, use a tablet stand, placed on a hard surface, to optimize the gaze angle and allow a more neutral posture.
Handling: When handling a tablet, we use more non-neutral hand and wrist postures. Holding it in one hand generates a great deal of wrist radial deviation (12 degrees). And interacting with the touch-screen can require significant wrist extension (40 degrees) from viewing the keys to ensure accurate typing. Also, holding the tablet and typing with both hands often requires non-neutral thumb and wrist postures (the thumbs are doing most of the work). To reduce the incidence of injury, move the keyboard to the middle of the screen or use a split keyboard. Or, use a tilt case or rubberized back surface to reduce the loads on the hands and decrease the forearm muscle activity.
Overall, using a smaller or medium-sized device is less likely to cause a musculoskeletal disorder than using a larger device because the thumbs don’t have to reach as far to make a key stroke. As a result, they are easier and more comfortable to use and cause less fatigue. For more information on how to combat the risks associated with tablet use, watch the video “Tablet Use: What are the Risks?”.