Elderly Tablet Users Face Double The Risk Of Injuring Themselves

September 28, 2018

Elderly Tablet Users Face Double The Risk Of Injuring Themselves

This article is a summary of our research into the various tablet related injuries and who they affect the most. Our full white paper on the topic can be viewed here.

In this post we're going to get a bit technical with some original research we've done in to the risks of using iPads and tablet devices. So settle in for a (fairly) long but very interesting read on the various types tablet related injuries, their symptoms, and what you can do to avoid them.

Today's world is full of electronic devices that help us with our everyday life. From mobiles to tablets, we rely on these technological marvels to make our lives easier and more comfortable.

A decade ago, the thought of carrying around hundreds of books would have seemed impossible, yet today we carry thousands on our tablets with no problem. With mobile devices helping us out in so many ways, there’s no hiding the countless benefits that tablets have brought us.

But are these electronic devices causing us more harm than good?

With plenty of tablet and mobile related injuries out there, including iPad neck and shoulder, are tablets actually harming us in the long term?

Having experienced various tablet related injuries ourselves first hand, we’ve spent the last several months researching the effects of tablet use on a variety of different tablet users.

From sifting through countless studies by world-renowned doctors and researchers, we’ve found some compelling evidence about the dangers of using tablets. From certain individuals being more susceptible to tablet injuries, to a clear increase in common tablet injuries, these statistics are very eye-opening.

No matter if you or your relatives use a tablet, everyone is at risk of injuring themselves if you use a tablet incorrectly. With very little help or guidance out there, many users end up learning the hard way about tablet injuries. To make you aware of the potential risks, we’ll cover the most common tablet injuries that affect users, but before we dive into that, let's take a look at how tablets became so popular in the first place.

The Rise of Tablets

For many people, tablets have been a part of everyday life for years from reading a book to watching a film in bed. But for other generations, tablets are a relatively new concept.

Contrary to popular belief, one of the first tablet devices to be released was the Microsoft Tablet PC in the year 2000. At the time it was considered revolutionary technology, but due to the weight and size it never really took off.

Throughout the years there have been several tablet releases, but none have been more commercially successful than the iPad. Created by the giants at Apple, the iPad has revolutionised the tablet industry in many ways. Not only did Apple make them affordable to the masses, but they also made them a must-have item thanks to their modern advertising.

The first generation iPad was released on 3rd April 2010, and since then, they have made their way into almost every home and school. With so many benefits of using tablets, their usage has grown exponentially over the last decade which has also caused a huge increase in the number of injuries.

Today, there are numerous injuries that are related to tablet use, including iPad shoulder, iPad neck, and iHunch to name a few.

The Most Common Tablet Injuries

Injuries caused by tablets are nothing new and have been continually reported in scientific and medical journals for years. However, to the average tablet user, not everyone is aware of the long-term harm they can cause.

During our research, we discovered 4 common tablet related injuries which affect all ages of tablet users, with some generations being affected more than others. If you’ve ever used a tablet for a long time, then the chances are you’ve experienced mild symptoms of these injuries.

Musculoskeletal Disorder

The first common tablet injury on our list is musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) and has been researched by medical professionals for decades.

Musculoskeletal disorder is an injury that is caused by a sudden or sustained exposure to repetitive motion, force, vibration, or awkward positions. Or in other words, holding a tablet in an unnatural position for a long time.

When holding a tablet, you put a lot of unnecessary pressure and force on your arms, shoulder, and neck. Doing this for prolonged periods of time can cause serious aches and pains which have been termed iPad neck and iHunch. If you’ve ever spent an hour or more watching a movie on your tablet, then you should know how quickly your body can start to ache.

Researchers have found that by bending the head 60 degrees to look at your tablet, it puts an extra 60 lbs (27kgs) worth of pressure on the spine above the shoulders. Since most tablet users rest their device in their arms or lap, this means that anyone who reads a book or watches a film will be subject to this additional pressure. And in the long term, this is what can cause aches and pains in the neck, back, and shoulder region.

Since the original iPad was released in April 2010, there has been a huge increase in the number of searches for iPad neck and iPad shoulder.

ipad neck google trends

ipad shoulder google trends

As you can see from the charts above, as soon as the first iPad was released in April 2010, there was a significant increase in the number of searches for both iPad shoulder and neck. Over the following 2 years, the number of searches increased regularly as Apple introduced their 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation iPads. Although the interest over time for both of these terms has decreased, even today, over 8 years since the original iPad was released, people are still searching for these terms.

Another common form of MSD found with regular tablet use is a medical condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome.

This condition currently affects many users, and the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome has been increasing ever since the release of the first tablet in the year 2000.

carpal tunnel syndrome stats

Since the year 2000 and the following years after the Microsoft tablet release, there has been a huge increase in cases. It’s gotten to the point now where about 1 in every 277 individuals have been diagnosed with the condition.

In a recent study uncovered from our research, 62.8% of participants showed symptoms when using their tablet less than 3 hours daily, while 75.8% of participants showing symptoms when using their tablet for more than 6 hours daily. This means if you use your tablet regularly for over 6 hours a day, then you’re at a very high risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Something to think about the next time you’re thinking about watching a movie or binging a TV series on your tablet.

Tendonitis

Another common tablet injury is Tendonitis which is the inflammation of a tendon when it is overused. Commonly found in sports such as tennis and cricket in the form of tennis elbow or cricketers’ shoulder, there has recently been a rise of Tendonitis in tablet users.

Tendonitis hasn’t just been linked to the use of tablets. In fact, before tablets became popular, there was a large increase in mobile-related tendonitis cases with doctors coining the injuries “cellphone thumb” and “cellphone elbow”. These injuries became common for individuals holding their mobile phones in unnatural positions for an extended period of time.

Nowadays, due to the popularity and weight of tablets, some of which can weigh up to 1.2kg, Tendonitis is most commonly caused by holding heavy tablets for too long.

Researchers have suggested that the increase in Tendonitis is due to excessive usage of fingers to type and hold the device for extended periods of time, thus damaging the wrists. With so much force being placed on users wrists while holding a tablet, it only takes a short time before your arms and wrists start to ache.

Since the release of the iPad in 2010, the number of reported injuries relating to tendonitis has seen a sharp increase, just like musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Headaches

Continuing with our list of the most common tablet injuries, we have headaches. They might not sound like they are caused by using tablets, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

Headaches are commonly defined as pain anywhere in the region of the head or neck. With the most common types of headaches being migraines (sharp or throbbings pains), tension headaches, and cluster headaches.

According to a recent report that surveyed teenagers from 6 different countries, 15-31% of males and 26-44% of females experience recurrent headaches. With tablet usage being increasingly higher in younger generations, these figures show that headaches are extremely common and even more so in young females.

Headaches that occur from tablet use is due to a phenomenon known as computer vision syndrome (CVS). This phenomenon is when a user uses a tablet for a prolonged period of time, their blinking decreases below its average rate. This leads to fatigue, blurred vision, eyestrain and eventually headaches.

Insomnia

The final tablet injury on our list isn’t necessarily an injury, but it can still cause day to day problems which can lead to injuries.

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder where an individual has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, resulting in poor sleep quality. Acute cases of insomnia often last a few days to weeks, while chronic insomnia can often last months.

In a recent report from 2007 to 2016, the rates of chronic insomnia increased from 30% to 33%, affecting an additional 10 million people in the US alone.

Many researchers believe that tablets being used at night have led to this increase in cases.

The light emitted from tablets in dark environments have been found to have an adverse effect on the quality and quantity of sleep due to an inhibited secretion of melatonin. This means that the bright light emitted from the tablet actually stops the production of melatonin which is required for quality sleep.

A study in 2013 found that the use of computers for watching television, movies, and TV in bed was found to be positively related to insomnia. It’s even possible that with regular use, a user might develop a form of long-term chronic insomnia.

Insomnia itself might not hurt anyone physically, but the knock-on effects of insomnia can be devastating. A survey of 8,000 French workers reported that only 1% of non-insomniacs had an industrial accident in the last 12 months, while a staggering 8% of insomniacs had an accident. Although the reasons behind why the participants had insomnia were not disclosed, we’d bet it was related to the use of electronic devices at night such as tablets, mobiles and TVs all emitting blue light.

Who Are the Most Vulnerable to Tablet Injuries?

As you can see from the tablet injuries we’ve covered, there are numerous ways in which a tablet can harm you. Some injuries are clearly not as obvious as others, and most often go unnoticed for a long time.

With so many different types of injuries out there, are certain groups of people more vulnerable to these injuries?

From our research into tablet injuries; it’s clear that the elderly generation is much more at risk from tablet related injuries.

An important study that highlighted the risks of tablet use in the elderly was conducted in 2012 by Hsia and Cho. In this research paper, participants completed a series of tasks while being monitored with a 3D motion capture system.

After the tasks were complete, the participants were questioned about possible musculoskeletal symptoms such as aching wrists, arms and necks. The results showed that for the regions investigated, elderly participants reported much higher average pain scores and musculoskeletal symptoms than the younger participants.

From this research, it’s clear that elderly tablet users are much more at risk of harming themselves when it comes to using tablets. But why is this the case?

Is it something that the elderly does with tablets that causes them more injuries? Or is it just their old age? Well, it’s actually a mixture of both.

The higher rate of musculoskeletal symptoms in the elderly can be attributed to a number of factors, including increased nerve root irritation and weaker muscles. Consequently, elderly users also have poorer eyesight which means they need to adjust the viewing distance of their tablet considerably. The average viewing range for an elderly user is between 12.5cm to 50cm which often requires the user to hold the tablet at arm's length.

This tablet habit dramatically increases the likelihood of musculoskeletal symptoms including aching arms and shoulders which in the long term leads to more regular pains.

But this isn’t the only reason why the elderly are more vulnerable to tablet injuries. Older tablet users are much more likely to have mild musculoskeletal symptoms already, due to their age, which can end up becoming worse with incorrect tablet use. The effects of incorrect tablet use not only amplify existing symptoms, but can quickly develop new problems in the elderly.

In addition to this, elderly tablet users also receive little education on how to use tablets and are mainly left on their own to figure it out. This usually results in users developing bad tablet habits such as using a high brightness, holding the tablet incorrectly, and having the wrong posture. All of which significantly increases the likelihood of tablet-related injuries.

Should You Be Worried?

As you can see from what we’ve covered, there are plenty of different tablet-related injuries out there. From severe injuries including forms of musculoskeletal syndrome to tendonitis, incorrect tablet use can cause a lot of problems for tablet users of all ages.

However, from our research, it’s clear that elderly tablet users are the most prone to tablet related injuries. This is primarily due to users having to hold tablets in awkward positions to use them and not having the correct posture. These unnatural positions put extra strain on already tired and worn muscles which in turn develop symptoms much faster.

To stop aches, pains and sores from arising while using a tablet, we recommend using a suitable freestanding tablet holder. Not only does this take the weight off your arms, but it also stops you from holding your tablet in unnatural positions and makes using your tablet much more enjoyable. By taking the pressure off your arms, you can relax without slowly damaging your body and health.

Not only do tablet stands significantly reduce the risk of tablet injuries, but they also allow users to enjoy using their tablets in a much more comfortable position. Having an elevated tablet stand can greatly improve a users viewing angle, reducing the need to look down and the amount of stress in the neck and shoulders.

No matter who in your family uses a tablet, whether it's your children or parents, investing in a tablet stand is crucial to avoid these unnecessary injuries. The best way to stop future symptoms from developing is to ensure everyone who uses a tablet understands the risk of incorrect tablet use. Don’t chance it, give the gift of a tablet stand and good health today.




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