Using portable technology can put our bodies under strain. A physiotherapist explains what you can do to prevent and soothe aches and pains.
Improve your portable tech posture
Seek professional advice
Neck pain is rarely serious but if you have concerns about persistent pain or headaches, consult your doctor.
Chartered physiotherapists can help you to improve your posture and prevent problems.
Find a physiotherapist in your area
The increasing use of portable technology such as tablet computers and mobile phones can put our bodies at increased risk of developing aches and pains.
Symptoms can include:
- pain and joint stiffness around the neck, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists or hands
- sensations of numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- restricted movement.
There are ways to reduce and prevent symptoms by improving our habits and behaviour while using these devices.
- Avoid poking your chin forwards.
- Where possible, place the laptop on a desk or table.
- Avoid using on your lap for long periods.
- Consider using a separate keyboard and mouse or monitor to ensure your neck and shoulders are in a good position.
- Ensure you have the correct eyewear for reading the screen to avoid tilting your head or poking your chin forwards. Varifocals, for example, may cause you to tilt your head upwards.
- If using on a train, break regularly to move your neck and shoulders.
Tablets and electronic readers
- Avoid twisting your neck or upper body.
- Try resting the device on a cushion or lap tray on your knee to keep your head central and your arms relaxed. This helps to take the weight off your neck and 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 while in bed – use pillows to ensure an upright posture. It may help to place a pillow under your knees. Avoid lying on your side to use.
- Consider using a mouth or ear-piece if using for lengthy periods to make calls.
- Try to avoid using the same fingers to send text messages – vary it.
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
Neck pain is rarely serious but if you have concerns about persistent pain or headaches, consult a doctor.
- 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 help relieve the tension in tight muscles in the neck and back. Avoid over-heating and wrap in a towel. Apply for around 15 minutes.
About our expert trader
Our expert: physiotherapist David Deas
David Deas has been working as a physiotherapist since 1993.
In 2001, he joined Balmoral Physiotherapy Clinic in Newcastle upon Tyne. The clinic is highly recommended by Which? members.
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