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Document Holders: Do They Really Help?

Many people prefer having devices that hold pages upright near their computers. At first glance, they appear to improve the ergonomics of computer workstations, which can reduce fatigue, improve productivity, and prevent repetitive stress disorders leading to neck and shoulder pain

However, Malaysia’s ever-curious researchers Ambusam Subramaniam and Devinder Kaur Ajig Singh were not about to let supposition rule the day. They performed a study to give scientific evidence to the question of whether document holders really help. Their results are published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics.1 

In case you were wondering, it’s a fact. Extensive computer use is associated with increased risk of work-related neck disorders.2,3 Despite our best efforts to remember good posture, people who work at computers tend to hold their necks in a forward, bent posture for prolonged periods.4 This adds to how the repetitive motions involved in typing already contribute to neck pain.5 People with neck pain tend to have an imbalance of muscle workload in the neck and upper shoulder areas, and this leads to muscle tension, which in turn precipitates a number of possible disorders.6,7 

In the recent study, researchers analyzed the posture and muscle activity of 52 people using computers with or without document holders. The use of document holders resulted in posture trending away from head excursion. It also resulted in significant reductions in neck muscle activity which is associated with neck pain. The conclusion is that, when measured precisely, document holders may help improve posture and do indeed relax the neck in ways that could prevent neck pain. 

Explore our free guide: Understanding Neck Pain


  1. Subramaniam A, Singh DK. Effects of using a document holder when typing on head excursion and neck muscle activity among computer users with and without neck pain. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics. 2019 Jan 11.

  2. Eltayeb S, Staal JB, Kennes J, Lamberts PH, de Bie RA. Prevalence of complaints of arm, neck and shoulder among computer office workers and psychometric evaluation of a risk factor questionnaire. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2007 Dec 1;8(1):68.

  3. Zakerian SA, Subramaniam ID. The relationship between psychosocial work factors, work stress and computer-related musculoskeletal discomforts among computer users in Malaysia. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics. 2009 Jan 1; 15 (4): 425-34.

  4. Goostrey S, Treleaven J, Johnston V. Evaluation of document location during computer use in terms of neck muscle activity and neck movement. Applied Ergonomics. 2014 May 1; 45 (3): 767-72.

  5. Ariëns GA, Bongers PM, Douwes M, Miedema MC, Hoogendoorn WE, van der Wal G, Bouter LM, van Mechelen W. Are neck flexion, neck rotation, and sitting at work risk factors for neck pain? Results of a prospective cohort study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2001 Mar 1;58(3):200-7.

  6. Szeto GP, Sham KS. The effects of angled positions of computer display screen on muscle activities of the neck–shoulder stabilizers. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics. 2008 Jan 1; 38 (1): 9-17.

  7. Bauer W, Wittig T. Influence of screen and copy holder positions on head posture, muscle activity and user judgement. Applied Ergonomics. 1998 Jun 1; 29 (3): 185-92.


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