Ergonomics 101 – “Why Your iPhone or iPad May Be Causing You Pain”


Your digital communication devices aren’t just reliable for killing time on the bus—they’re also great for prematurely aging you and breaking all kinds of things in your body. Or at least, that’s what some experts are saying. According to ergonomics professionals cited in this New York Times article, mobile phones, laptops and tablets are all much worse for the human body than their predecessors. They are built for convenience and usability—not for optimal joint,hand, back and neck health. Previously, they say, computer-using employees had only to worry about eye strain and a sedentary lifestyle, because desks, office chairs, and desktop computers were all designed to support the body and be adjusted for comfort. Other, smaller technologies, like the ones you hold in your hand with your shoulders hunched together, are not. And there’s really not any good way to position them when you’re using them anywhere other than a desk. Possible ailments, caused by overuse and poor posture, can range from the uncomfortable (like carpal tunnel syndrome, which can make triceps dips and other wrist-bending activities very unpleasant), to the more serious, like weakened vision, or something called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which is apparently when your thumb joints become so worn out, it becomes difficult to make a fist or hold things. Have a look at the following symptoms

  • Pain or tenderness in the outer part of your elbow (lateral epicondyle)
  • Gripping something with your hand causes slight discomfort in your outer elbow
  • You have difficulty keeping your arm straight
  • Your outer elbow muscle twitches when you keep your arm still
  • Weak grip strength

Sounds familiar? It may be that you are suffering from Tennis Elbow. Don’t play tennis, I hear you say? That is because Tennis Elbow refers to a condition called Lateral epicondylitis, which essentially means, overuse of the lateral side of the elbow (Wikipedia, 2011). With all these great smart phones around, walking home has suddenly turned into a scene from “Night of the Living Dead”. “Zombies” standing around looking down at their phones with the usual groan. Doctors have reported an increase in elbow pain complaints in the last few years and have even coined a new term “Cellphone Elbow” (Ergow, 2009) to join a large list of new age diseases. Not to worry though. You can prevent “CellPhone Elbow” with a few simple tips.

  • Try to stay fit and exercise your arms regularly. (even swinging your arms more when you walk would help)
  • Limit your phone usage or at least switch arms from time to time
  • Paul Brown (, 2011) also provides a simple exercise to do regularly:Take one hand in the other and gently flex the held hand’s wrist. That is, bend the wrist in the direction of the palm of the hand. Straighten that same arm’s elbow. Slowly rotate the forearm so the elbow crease is pointing away from your body. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds.

Sources: ErgoWeb, Cellphone Elbow, Online: Paul Brown, iPhone Elbow, Online: Wikipedia, Tennis Elbow, Online:

2 thoughts on “Ergonomics 101 – “Why Your iPhone or iPad May Be Causing You Pain”

  1. Good infographic, very informative. I wonder what percent of the US owns a tablet now in 2019. I tried an ibeani but found it flimsy and not something you want to bring into a coffee shop. I use a ComfortHandle, you can detach it and adjust the viewing angle on your ipad to be anything you want. Highly recommend it!


  2. I don’t know about iphones, but the ibeani helped me a lot with pain from using my iPad and kindle. Its like a bean bag cushion that you rest your iPad or kindle on, which means you can use it for long periods of time without any aches or pain, like when you’re in bed or lying on the sofa. Got mine from Live Better With – it’s a site primarily for people with cancer but this is definitely applicable to other conditions too, like arthritis:


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