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My iPad is hurting me!

by Mark P. McDonald  |  August 16, 2012  |  6 Comments

My iPad has not joined Skynet and become belligerent or been zapped by the Allspark, but using my third generation iPad is giving me a pain in my wrist that did not happen with my iPad1.  Basically, holding the iPad in my hand to read, play a game, watch a video or scan email is giving carpal tunnel like symptoms.    By the way if you got both references, then have been watching Sci-Fi movies for a long time.

Apparently I am not alone in this as the Daily Mail, a newspaper in the UK reported back in February 2012 that doctors are treating a new condition the article called ‘iPad hand ’ to describe the repetitive stress injuries caused by holding the device with their fingers.   For me it is putting the iPad in the crux between my thumb and forefinger with the fingers supporting the back and the thumb holding the device steady.   iPad hand is not a term that connotes the best use cases of the product, so I would suggest finding another.  I am sure that this happens with other tablet devices so its not unique to the iPad.

I had to think about what was causing this pain, as I used my prior iPad for years without incident.  Two things came to mind weight and screen.

Weight is at the root cause of this condition.  The third generation iPad is just light enough to trick you into thinking its easy hold in your hand but not so light that holding it in a hand is the best long-term way to use the device.   My downfall was reading books on the device. I never really tried to hold my iPad I like a piece of paper.  It was obviously too heavy.  This led me to use it mostly in its stand, in the case of the iPad 1 the excellent Ori Gorillamobile stand from Joby.  I tried the same stand for the third gen iPad and found it wanting the reason – it added too much weight.  I should have considered that the added weight would have been a blessing; the added weight would have kept the iPad in my lap or on my desk and out of my hand.  Who would have thought that some things should be heavy, at least heavy enough to discourage certain uses.

Don’t get me wrong I love the new iPad and its predecessors. The screen is the reward for enduring the pain in the hand, as the retina display is outstanding, engaging and leading to using the device more often.  But what pleases the eye apparently hurts the hand.  Again we need a different term than iPad hand, your suggestions please.

So what, why is this important, besides the fact that my left hand is weaker than my right?

One is that the situation highlights the importance of weight as a design factor and that sometimes lighter may not always be better.  Apple and other tablet device makers should give it a thought and perhaps that is why there is so much buzz around a 7’ screen for the next gen iPad – smaller screen, less weight, less force against the fingers.  Perhaps, but if you can make things lighter and thinner they are generally better, so do not give up on it, just realize that the weight reduction is a lot more than a few ounces.

Another point is that the pace of technology is changing so fast that we are constantly making near term decisions with little ability to understand longer-term consequences.  In this case the long term and cumulative effects of holding even a light tablet in your hand for extended periods of time.  Its something we have to all been careful about in making consumer technology decisions in the future.

For me, my future involves getting this device out of my hand and back onto my lap or desk.  I am not sure how I am going to do that, replacing my ultra slim leather like case with something of greater heft is a start.  Taping a brick to the back is possible, but not really an option.  So is changing my behavior to that little tweak I feel in my wrist and forearm every time I want to check my email, play a game or watch a video on this still amazing device.

My advice for you is to be warned that your iPad could hurt you and please provide your experiences and suggestions for another name than iPad hand.

Please as I can only imagine how people will back away from me and you when you complain of iPad hand!

Category: personal-observation  technology  

Tags: ipad  personal-observation  technology  

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on My iPad is hurting me!

  1. […] this link: My iPad is hurting me! Share:Facebook This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged contracts, disaster, enterprise, […]

  2. Craig Roth says:

    I’m not sure who decided that holding and tapping on ever-thinner panes of glass was a great idea, but I’d like to meet them. Pretty, yes. Status symbol: definitely. But ergonomic: errr, no.

    By the way, this is covered in my presentation next week at Catalyst on how the vision in future productivity videos doesn’t match the reality we should be aiming for.

    Not to mention my blog post “Breaking News: iPhone 22 to Double as Razor” (

  3. Judy Grannas says:

    How about ipaditis! Seriously, though, I am happy to have found this article. I’ve suffered. With bad ergonomics for decades as I started out as a typesetter back in the 80s, before the word ergonomics was popular, and I suffered with the numbness and tingling, back aches, etc. back then. Traded up to desktop publishing in the nineties and when more people complained about pain and muscle strain, along with carpal tunnel, then more ergonomic products were marketed to the sufferers of bad work station design. Now, I thought my iPad was meant to alleviate all that strain as I sit on my ass for hours wondering why my elbows hurt, my forearms feel over worked, shoulders are tense, back spams, and some tingling in my fingers and butt, I’ve realized that all the old symptoms have come back that drove me to see several docotors for help years ago. The iPad is convenient, but more awareness needs to be made regarding the health effects of using it too much.

  4. Chips Taratus says:

    I have come to realize that I now have a chronic pain in the base of my left thumb from simultaneously holding the iPad with my left hand and using my left thumb to sweep pages up and down. I call it iPad thumb, or iThumb.

  5. Michelle says:

    Ok so now that my left hand hurts so bad I had to see
    My doctor can some one invent a device that strap my
    iPhone 4S to my left of a handle that lessons the damage to my
    Hand ,elbow, & shoulder ???? Help I’m disabled by pain , Collagen disorder, diabetes induced neuropathy and arthritis :-( so I use
    My iPhone 4S more then most people so I need a Solution because I don’t see myself stopping using my phone anytime soon :-(

  6. DAVEMAN says:

    By using in the left armature of my body, being the left hand, I believe my pain results from the; Thumb and index finger vise clasp of random pressure I use on my IPAD2 each and every day, perhaps this is caused by oblivious unconsciously knowing pinch of the thumb and index finger which I hold it in this way for long periods of time and other support fingers such as; my middle finger and right finger as well as pinky finger randomly supporting The IPAD2 do possibly result, I believe in this strenuous pain cause by excessive use of the IPAD2.

    My conclusion to remedy my painful case of involuntary armature actions daily, is to find a larger outer protection case for my IPAD2 and this should i’m pretty sure at least I guesstimate, that the physical excessive use malfunctioning of my IPAD2 will be gone from my mind body and spirt ounce more and free from the pain of use. Sherlock Holmes over and out!

    How’s that for an observation?


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