If you spend long amounts of time on the telephone, either at work or at home, you may find that it's literally a pain in the neck. Consider the following scenario: you're at work and you need to talk to a client on the phone while looking up his records, and you wind up cradling the phone on your shoulder, your neck bent over to hold it in place, all while simultaneously typing or moving around to search for the documents you need. How often during the day do you do this? Is it any wonder that at the end of the day you feel tension or pain in your neck and shoulders?
You're not alone. A study presented at the Ergonomic Society Conference indicated that 50% of office workers suffered from neck pain, much of it attributable to using the telephone in such awkward positions. This pain can escalate over the years into serious musculoskeletal health problems. Fortunately, there are many things you can to do eliminate the source of this pain.
- Use a headset or "hands free" phone. Using a speakerphone allows you to sit with a normal posture, while having your hands free to type or take notes. Even in noisy offices where using a speakerphone might not be appropriate, most modern telephones allow you to plug in a headset or combination earpiece/microphone, so that you don't have to continually hold the phone to your ear.
- Be aware of your "phone posture." Users of handheld phones tend to slump their shoulders forward, putting strain on the entire upper body. Instead, sit upright, with your head straight (not tilted to one side) and with your shoulders relaxed, looking forward (as opposed to down) as much as possible. If you need to hold the phone in your hand, consider alternating ears on long conversations.
- Stretch regularly during the day. Simple stretches that can relieve the tension of talking on the phone for long periods of time include tucking your chin in toward your neck, then tilting your head to the right and to the left, and holding each position for 10-20 seconds. Rotating your neck, both clockwise and counterclockwise, can also help.
- Don't forget about texting. Many people now spend more time sending text messages than they do actually talking on the phone. If you do this, notice your posture as you text. Chances are you are sitting with the phone in your lap or on a desk, with your head looking down at it as you type on the tiny keyboard. This can be an instant prescription for "text neck." Instead, try sitting more upright with the mobile device raised higher so that you don't have to constantly look down to see it.
- Use earphones or Bluetooth earpieces with your mobile phone. These devices allow you to have your hands free for whatever else you're doing, and to walk and move normally, without holding an uncomfortable posture that could place strain on your neck, shoulders and back. Sure, you may be walking down the street looking as if you are talking to yourself, but that's better in the long run than arriving home with a sore neck.