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Is Your Phone Giving You Neck Arthritis?: October 19, 2011

New research suggests too much phone time can give you a pain in the neck that lasts long after you hang up.

“Neck arthritis is a very common presentation for primary care physicians and for spine surgeons,” says Dr. Jon Kimball, an orthopedic spine surgeon with the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Dr. Kimball says neck arthritis is on the rise.

“The highest use areas that develop arthritis tend to be number one: hip and knee arthritis, hands and fingers, and then a close third is neck and low back.”

Studies are looking at why more people are getting ‘stiffed’.

“Our neck does get used with so many activities. Anything that involves us being upright or turning or moving our head causes those joints to be active. And repetitive motion eventually takes their toll with wear and tear,” says Dr. Kimball.

One thing in particular is putting more stress on our necks.

Americans are keeping their cell phones busier than ever. A national survey found Americans spend an average 13 hours a month in talk time, people between the ages 18 to 24 have no hang ups, spending more than 22 hours a month on the line.

“I would be lost without my cell phone,” says Kat Clark.

Kat is constantly on the line and in touch.

“I’m not from here, so I’m always trying to stay in contact with people up north. So when I’m catching up with them its usually for a pretty extended amount of time. It can be hours.”

Experts suggest people switch ears occasionally, rotate their shoulders and arms and sit up straight while talking. Doctors find arthritis manifesting at earlier ages, but it starts with little notice.

“It’s really after the problems such as stiffness and pain may become a little bit more constant. Then they find out that they have arthritis and most likely have had it for many many years,” says Dr. Kimball.

Severe neck arthritis may require injections for pain. The thought of her cell phone damaging her health is prompting Kat to switch signals.

“Sometimes I put it on speaker and hold it like this and talk into it.”

Preserving her neck and piece of mind.