A time traveler from the 1950’s popping in on our culture would probably notice a strange phenomenon in the posture of many people. The traveler would surely wonder why people are walking, shopping, driving, and doing all sorts of activities with their head tilted to one side. Indeed, the traveler might ask, why do some people keep trying to trap a small object between their ear and their shoulder, while others wedge their hand by the side of their head.
What do all these people have in common? They are on cell phones! Few can argue the convenience of a cell phone. It’s become the standard means for keeping in touch with children, catching up on phone calls while on the road, or just being accessible practically anytime, any place.
There is, however, a downside. Frequent or extended cell phone use can cause chronic tension to develop in the shoulder and neck muscles. Over time, this can lead to stiff necks and loss of motion when turning the head. If one-sided neck tension continues for a long period of time, TMJ or temporal mandibular joint problems (jaw pain or clicking) can result from uneven tension on the jaw.
In rare instances, problems with balance can result because muscles from the neck also attach to the temporal bone (right behind the ear), which houses the inner ear balance mechanism. It is common for the shoulder on the cell phone side to start coming forward, creating a rounded shoulder posture. If this persists, the shoulder eventuality starts to lose full motion, which can affect reaching behind the back or throwing a ball.
There are several things you can do if you use your cell phone a lot. First, use a hands-free set in your car. It will improve your driving concentration and keep your neck loose. Next, get a headset for those long conversations on weekends or evenings. And avoid lifting or carrying things while you talk on the phone, and don’t support the phone between your ear and shoulder. Holding it in one hand for short conversations is a better alternative.
If your neck and shoulders are stiff, try rolling your shoulders up, back and down. Then reach behind your back and hold your left wrist with your right hand. Gently pull (don’t tug or yank) your left arm downward while you tip your head to the right. Then switch sides.
Modern life’s conveniences sometimes bring with them the need to think carefully about their effects on our bodies. The physical consequences of those effects can prove, ironically, inconvenient, at least, and potentially harmful in some instances. Our bodies “remember” all that happens to them, and we must take care that frequent, physically awkward uses of cell phones don’t wind up sending wrong messages to our bodies. Perhaps a time traveler’s perspective on ourselves would help us treat our bodies right.
May the ring tone be with you!