iPad in repetitive strain fears

RSI issues with Apple's tablet have hit the headlines
Adam Smith

February 14, 2012
iPad 2

The iPad has been around for some time now – in fact, the third version of the tablet is about to be revealed.

Therefore it’s bad timing for Apple that the latest story to hit the headlines regarding its market dominating slate links it to RSI problems.

RSI or repetitive strain injury is something most computer users will be familiar with, as bad posture coupled with lots of typing or mouse movement on a daily basis can cause long term pains in the hands and wrists.

And apparently according to the latest newspaper reports, there’s evidence that the Apple tablet can be quite the pain in the wrist, too.

The Telegraph and Mail, amongst others, are today carrying stories on the dangers of RSI and the iPad. So-called “iPad hand” is apparently the new “BlackBerry thumb” (caused by the smartphone’s roller ball).

The Mail notes that the way people hold the tablet, and repetitive swiping motions of the finger, can cause a range of aches across the hand and down the arm.

Neck pains can also be a problem when craning over the tablet for long hours, although that’s true of laptops as well, really. A tablet is more awkward to hold, though, and particularly more awkward to type on using the virtual on-screen keyboard.

Some of the material presented by the newspapers is drawn from a piece on a blog called Ergolab.

In this, author Cyndi Davis states: “The Apple iPad has all the Ergonomic challenges associated with the laptop AND takes another step in the WRONG DIRECTION. Typing on the iPad touchscreen while the iPad rests on a flat surface will force the neck into more extreme static neck flexion or extension depending on the users posture. Eye strain is also a risk.”

She adds that “typing on the iPad for any stretch of time will create neck pain, possible eye strain and could cause injury”.

Apple also comes under fire for the design of its iPad docking station. While that can have a keyboard attached to it for more comfortable typing, there’s no way to adjust the height of the screen when the tablet is in the dock, another ergonomic failing.

Much of the strain issue boils down to the fact that the iPad is seen as a laptop or computer replacement, and as such will be used for prolonged activity – and lots of typing – as opposed to say an iPhone which is used more sporadically.

And it’s those long bouts of continued use, in stressing and poor ergonomic conditions, that can cause potential problems.

The doc’s advice is simple. Take frequent breaks in your tablet usage, and be mindful of your posture while using the device.

Meanwhile, Apple might want to take a look at its dock design for the launch of the iPad 3.


Comments in chronological order (1 comment)

  1. It’s worse than you described when using a separate keyboard. I tried using an Ipad this way for a few days, with a nice case that allowed me to prop up the Ipad in either landscape or portrait mode. But to edit anything, I had to constantly reach for the screen and try tap precisely on it, then lean over and try again, then pick it up and tap, then resume typing on the separate keyboard. There is no mouse and no substitute for constantly groping the screen. I didn’t use it enough to experience RSI but the aggravation was extreme, and even worse combined with the inability to easily manage files or get things on and off the Ipad. Apple clearly designed it to NOT serve as a laptop substitute and anyone trying to use it as such are really “settling” for something very inefficient. It is a device designed for viewing and consuming, and each app is in its separate world. I expect other tablets will do much better if they support a pointing device and create better file management and i/o (just a normal USB port would help SO much!)

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