Female tablet users are twice as likely to get “iPad neck”, experts reveal

Mobile tablet or smartphone users, you may have heard of the infamous term, “the iPad neck”. But perhaps you’ve only heard of the term, but aren’t really sure what it is.

For those out of the loop, the “iPad neck”, also known as the “smartphone neck”, is a persistent pain in the neck and upper shoulders caused by slouching or bending into extreme positions while using tablet computers (or any smart devices, for that matter!).

We’ve known from previous studies (and a sprinkle of common sense) that younger people are more likely to develop the iPad neck because of their heavier usage, BUT, an additional finding has found that women were more susceptible to the iPad neck phenomenon. In fact, more than twice as likely than males, to boot, which is a pretty significant amount.

And, no, it’s not because women use iPads more; it had nothing to do with the length of usage of the iPad. Read on to find out what are the reasons.

How does the iPad neck even come about?

The study states that postures that cause tablet users to slump over and gaze downwards or straining the neck forwards for long periods of time, are main contributors to the iPad neck. Examples include:

  • Sitting without back support (this increased odds of pain by over two times)
  • Sitting with the device in the lap
  • Sitting in a chair with the tablet placed on a flat desk surface

Sports rehab trainer Kwan Zheng Quek shared with Avenue One: “Other positions such as standing and looking reading at objects close to the body and below the eye level can also cause the iPad neck.”

So why are some groups of people more prone than others to the iPad neck?

At this point you might be thinking to yourself: well, everyone – regardless of gender and age, are likely to sit in bad postures, so why are women more prone to the affliction of iPad neck?

Well, the sad truth is that we are all, sadly, not made equal.

For the youth, the study attributed sedentary behaviour commonly observed among people in a university setting, due to a lack of a dedicated work space, and thus, a higher propensity to sit in uncomfortable postures such as sitting slouched cross-legged on their floor to study on their tablets.

This is especially true in Singaporean universities, where we only have around five universities tops for the entire of Singapore’s population, and not a whole lot of space to boot.

Any Singaporean (or exchange students!) currently studying in university can attest that study areas are almost always packed to the brim, especially during exam periods. Sometimes you just gotta make do, but it seems that making do, often causes more harm than anything, really.

On top of this, more than half of the respondents from the study said that they won’t stop using the device when experiencing discomfort, thus adding to the likelihood of developing neck and back problems, simply because younger people were more likely to simply grin and bear with it.

Kwan added: “The youth are also more likely to have the iPad neck because the bones and joints of people under 25 are not yet fully developed at that age.”

“So when they stay in awkward, uncomfortable positions for long periods of times, their bones are more likely to become fixed in said position.”

So now that we understand why the youth are more likely to be afflicted with the iPad neck, why women too?

So apart from age, gender, according to the study, plays a major part too, in terms of bad posturing.

Firstly, let’s get the huge disparity out of the way – the study showed that a whopping 70 per cent of female respondents reported experiencing the symptoms, compared to just under 30 per cent of men.

That’s more than twice – maybe close to thrice even! – the likelihood of women being more prone to the iPad neck than men.

The study explains that this huge disparity might be explained by size and movement differences – that is, women’s tendency to have lower muscle strength and a smaller stature, shorter arms and narrow(er) shoulders.

This leads them to assume extreme neck and shoulder postures while typing.

Interestingly enough, the study also showed that women were more likely, at 77 per cent to use their tablets while sitting on the floor compared to only 23 percent of male respondents, which supports the study’s justification.

Plus, the heavier the degree of tilt, the more weight you’re putting on your neck and spine, according to other research – and since women have less lower body strength, it makes sense that women are more likely than men to have the iPad neck, even assuming both genders show an equal amount of bad posturing.

Too lazy; didn’t read, but want the juice? Women are more likely to be sitting in bad postures because of their smaller statures.

But hey, if you’re male – this isn’t the opportunity for you to simply tap out.

Remember that this study was conducted in the U.S., and since smaller stature was a reason for the iPad neck, Asians, including males, may be affected too.

How do I avoid getting the iPad neck, then?

So if you find yourself the common victim of neck and back pains, and subconsciously always find yourself in uncomfortable positions that you know are harmful to yourself, Avenue One has 5 super easy tips for you, in order to avoid the accursed iPad neck.

1. Use a posture reminder device

Essentially, these things are small, wearable devices that adhere directly to the skin, or clip on to clothing and beep to let you know when you’re slouching.

Pretty self-explanatory, we think!

But if you can’t be bothered to get a fancy gadget for this, then well, you could simply ask your neighbouring colleague or classmate next to you to give you a little tap whenever they catch you slouching.

Not all devices have to be electronic, or costly – heh!

2. Remember to exercise and keep fit!

Kwan advised people who suffer from neck and back problems – for those suffering from the iPad neck – to start training their core muscles.

Why? Training of the core muscles ensures that muscles and joints are properly balanced, where the back muscles should ideally, be 1.5 times stronger than the chest, according to Kwan.

“An imbalance in the back to chest muscle ratio will result in a higher likelihood of the iPad neck, which is essentially – poor posture and poor alignment of the joints connected to the muscles,” Kwan explained.

3. Take a stand (for the sake of your neck)

Source: hecklerdesign.com

Do yourself a favour, and get yourself one of those specialised stands (that go pretty cheap so you’ve got nothing much to grumble over!) for your iPads or smartphones, so instead of watching your favourite dramas flat on the table, prop it up with the stand so it’s closer to your eye-level.

Kwan said that the best solution is to raise your tablet to a level closer to your eye level, which is precisely what a stand does – lower the strain on your neck (as you bend less).

4. But if you’re standing, bring it closer to your eye level!

Source: videezy.com

“Another reason why people develop the iPad neck is when they’re standing, and they end up craning their neck downwards when using their tablets,” Kwan said.

“So what you can do is to raise it closer to your eye-level, and, as much as possible, raise the tablet closer to your eye level.”

5. Sit in chairs that’ve got your back (literally)

By that, we mean try to sit in chairs that have back support.

Make sure to make full use of the chair’s back support, instead of simply sitting and slouching forward, as tempting and unconscious these movements may be!

The expert:

Kwan Zheng Quek


Kwan Zheng Quek studied Sports and Exercise Science at Loughborough University in the U.K. and has worked for the Japanese Private Gym Rizap as a senior health consultant and trainer. He has also worked as a rehab trainer and business development manager of the osteopathy and physiotherapy company Orchard Health Clinic.