In only 10 minutes in downtown Santa Monica, I counted 54 people talking on their cell phones while walking down the street. Only three chatters were using headsets. While headsets are now required by law in most states when driving, you won’t get a ticket for walking and talking with your cell phone jammed against your ear. But your neck and shoulders might eventually issue a warning of pain, and then a citation of spasm because that cell phone “stress” can lead to serious debilitating pain.

Excessive cellphone use can lead to shoulder and neck pain.

Holding a phone to your ear for extended periods sets up a string of prolonged tension in a gaggle of muscles around your neck and shoulders that are prone to adapt to their shortened position (these include the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, supraspinatus and pectoralis minor). So when you end your call and lower the arm, these muscles actually remain partially contracted in their “hold the phone” mode unless they’re fully stretched out. In addition, there are also many specialized cranial nerves that flow underneath and within those muscles — and when those get blocked or compressed, you’ll get that painful “pinched nerve” sensation that shoots into your neck and shoulders. Soon, compensation patterns begin which then affect other parts of the body and before you know it, that pain creeps into your lower back and hips!

In my classes & workshops I work with dozens of students who have neck issues and rotator cuff injuries. While the causes of such injuries and pains are infinite, they often include basic underlying postural imbalances such as those caused by the simple, everyday repetitive stress of holding a cell phone. In fact, the creation of my Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball program came to be when I was healing from a rotator cuff injury that kept getting aggravated by my cell phone use. I am now hooked on this low-cost quick-fix solution because it is the only form of self massage I’ve found that can access those incredibly hard to penetrate areas around my shoulders and neck.

As you probably know, self-massage has become a staple of Yoga Tune Up® and my personal everyday health care regimen. The Therapy Ball Programs help to heal and prevent imbalances by using the balls for targeted massage and trigger point therapy because they roll out the tension that builds up in these areas. The ‘grip and grab’ texture mimics the hands of a skilled massage therapist, helping to increase circulation while lengthening and loosening all of the fibers in those spastic “cell phone grasping” muscles.

I highly recommend you compliment whatever health care regimen you practice with some form of targeted massage therapy. And naturally, to completely eradicate all of those imbalances caused by “cell phone stress” I hope you’ll consider a complete system of stretch, strength and massage keep you relaxed and pain free from head to toe.

Read about a great self-massage for neck pain.

Learn more about our Therapy Balls.

Watch our neck pain relief videos on YouTube.

Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Marta Hanrahan

Text neck! Its a huge issue we see every day with clients, and I don’t imagine the behaviour that causes it is going to end any time soon. Thankfully we have therapy balls!

Renee Bolan

Great advice. I too am healing from a rotator cuff injury and I’ve since stopped holding my phone with my shoulder. Yoga Tune Up has helped me get great relief.


It’s a great advice to compliment a health care regimen with some form of targeted massage therapy or even better a self-massage therapy using yoga tune up balls! Hopefully, stretches, strength exercises, and self-massage will help completely eradicate all of the neck pains and stiffness.


This is a great reminder that so many little imbalances in our life can often lead huge physical problems. When I was recovering from a rotator cuff injury, I tried to become more mindful of my posture and yoga practice. I never thought about the elevated shoulder and tightened neck muscles when talking on my cell phone but will be more tuned to it now.


I find myself constantly talking this way on the phone! A great alternative is putting my caller on speaker phone (when not in a public place). This has allowed me to continue on my duties (cooking, cleaning) while chatting with my mom or other caller.
Great observation!

Sabena Talati

Great advice. I am going to try using the yoga tune up balls to get the kinks out…I am on the phone a lot of the day and this will definitely help!

Bonnie Zammarieh

I can think of more than a few people that I would like to forward this one to!

Renee Braunsdorf

Tune up balls are a perfect self – massage. With so much cell phone usage, it is great to identify and target the exact muscles in neck and shoulders affected by cell phone usage. Thank you.


I will target these muscles with my tune up balls now that I have a better understanding of where my “cell phone” pain is originating. Thank you for this insight.


I also got a pain in my neck from using my phone too much. I found relief after using my therapy balls to massage and release the tension mainly around my sternocleidomastoid. .

Susan Cooper

This blog is a perfect example of integrated anatomy. It’s always fascinating to realize how one part of our physical being is directly related to and impacts another. Great reminder.


this happens to me all the time when I’m on long conference calls at work and forget to use my headset. I’ll find myself the next day rubbing my upper trapezius, levator scapulae, and supraspinatus trying to get rid of the pain. I’ll have to use the balls next time.


Until I read this, I had not considered the connection between the rotator cuff and phone use (I’d only thought about the neck). Thanks.


Anatomically a great argument for using headsets 100% of the time. Especially since I’m right hand/right shoulder dominant which is causing tension in my right side corresponding muscles from all the phone holding. No wonder I feel out of balance!