Ipad Neck Strain

The most prevalent injuries that we Osteopaths treat on a day to day basis, in a way, reflect the society that we live in. These injuries change over time and as lifestyles and technologies develop, so too do new and interesting ways for people to injure themselves.

The evolution of the desk based working society undoubtedly has been the primary contributing factor to the prolific rise of low back injuries over the decades. Ask almost anyone who works or has worked at a desk and they will surely report having had some low back pain at some time in their lives.

Interestingly, there was a period of time 5-6 years ago where RSI of the thumb was becoming very commonplace. The cause varied depending on demographic. In adults it tended to arise from typing on a blackberry phone, something which has been declining in recent years as people switch to touch screen. In teenagers it still tends to arise from hammering away on Xbox or Playstation buttons. These particular patients wear their diagnosis like a badge of honour! I have never seen a patient so happy to be injured as a teenager with ‘Xbox thumb’.

There is a new injury that we have now been seeing more and more of at Farringdon Osteopaths, ‘iPad neck strain’. This condition occurs due to prolongued use of the ipad whilst craning the neck forwards to look directly downwards at the screen, fatiguing and straining the muscles and ligaments at the base of the neck and the upper thoracic region.

This commonly occurs when a patient is commuting on the train and sitting with the ipad on their lap, or lying flat in bed with the ipad on the chest and their head propped up too high on pillows. This extreme neck position can pull on the muscles and ligaments at the base of the neck and can even cause subluxation of ribs in the upper back through this pulling!

The discomfort is often felt around the top of the shoulders, the base of the neck or underneath the shoulder blades. The discomfort is usually first felt when moving out of the compromising position but it may take a few hours for the inflammation to build enough for the area to become sore, building through the day or being felt first thing in the morning upon waking.

This injury is in no way limited to iPad use either. ‘Ipad neck strain’ can also occur whilst watching a movie in bed on the laptop, or whilst using a kindle or smart phone. Any time the neck is being held in this vulnerable extreme position.

The ultimate cause for the injury is poor neck posture and can easily be corrected. By ensuring that the neck is not being craned forward too much for too long when reading or watching a film on the train or in bed this strain can be avoided.

More and more our lives are being integrated with touch screen devices and we are spending more and more time using these devices to communicate with friends, read the news and watch tv and films. Ensuring that we learn to use these devices in a safe way is essential in order to prevent iPad neck strain from becoming the next generation’s low back pain.

Geoffrey Hogan (M.Ost)
Registered Osteopath – Farringdon Osteopaths