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Tech Today: Avoid Musculoskeletal Disorders

Preventative Tips for Avoiding Stressors While Utilizing Technology


"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that Americans visit their doctors a whopping 70 million times each year seeking treatment for musculoskeletal disorders, many of which are caused by on-the-job activities."

~Human Factors & Ergonomics Society


Tablet computers with touchscreen displays are becoming increasingly common in both workplaces and the public domain, such as for customer use in retail stores, schools and airports.

Posturally the interaction between people and tablets/touchscreen computers is very different to that with traditional computers. Having separate input devices; mouse, keyboard and display allows for a more upright posture of the head and neck.

The postures and biomechanics associated with tablet  technology is closer to that experienced when working with pen and paper.  Use of tablet technology has been associated with a number of musculoskeletal stressors that  constitute a risk to health:

- Repetitive, awkward finger movements.

- Static, awkward postures of the neck and shoulders to read smaller, poorly placed screens.

- Awkward neck, shoulder and wrist postures during long use.

- Excessive gripping of the devices.


What to do

Best work practice: to reduce the risk of fatigue, discomfort and injury the following pointers will help an operator maintain a neutral and comfortable working posture. 

- Reduce the duration and frequency of use. Take frequent microbreaks from intensive tablet use.

- Alternate fingers/hands when using buttons/touchscreens.

- Reduce the number of required keystrokes with text shortcuts (search “text shortcuts” on  the web browser), or where feasible, use speech-recognition applications. 

- Maintain neutral wrist posture and alternate hands when holding devices. Consider using a case with a hand strap or a flexible mounting to reduce gripping. 

- Focus on neck posture – avoid excessive looking down when using a tablet. 

- The best location for use is just below the field of vision. Ensure the tablet can be placed in a location suited to each individual’s requirements and the task particulars. 

- Keep the upper body posture neutral and well supported. The neck should be straight, shoulders relaxed, and the arms positioned near the torso. 

- Avoid twisted and asymmetric postures – place the tablet directly in front of the body.  

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