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People are often surprised to learn that their shoulder and neck pain might be related to their phone use. But if you're like most cell users, you probably occasionally cradle the telephone between your head and a hunched shoulder, talking and typing (or driving) simultaneously. Poor usage habits can lead to discomfort, but simple tips - like alternating ears for each call, or storing commonly-used numbers in your phone's memory - can help. Read on for our no-frills guide to the ergonomics of cell phones.

Like nearly all activities, repetition can lead to stress and discomfort. Phones are no different, and repeatedly cradling the phone between your ear and a bent neck is a sure-fire prescription for shoulder pain. The best solution is to use a hands-free headset. Already required by some US states for drivers who talk on the phone, headsets free up your hands and let you keep your neck in an upright (and neutral) position.

If you can't use a headset, consider alternating ears for each conversation (or every ten minutes for long conversations). Changing sides (and hands) will distribute the stress more evenly, and give each ear a chance to rest.

Put commonly-dialed numbers into your phone's memory. Dialing becomes more difficult on the smaller keys of a phone, meaning that there's more potential for stress and strain on your fingers. With the advent of text messaging, our fingers (and especially thumbs) are getting even more of a workout. Physicians are already beginning to see injuries associated with repeated keying, and the introduction of cell-based games has only increased the potential for problems.

Finally, remember that the best solution is to limit your exposure entirely; reducing the amount of time you spend on the phone or combining phone use with alternatives like email can help prevent problems from ever starting.

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