Could Your Phone Be Causing Your Headaches?

While some studies have suggested that mobile phone use causes migraines and not other headaches, there is strong evidence to the contrary. Using a phone may cause a headache for a variety of reasons, from eye strain to poor posture and more.

Mobile phone use can cause increased headaches in adults, teenagers, and young children, which means that limiting your time looking at your mobile phone can be beneficial at any age.

This article explores how phones may cause migraines and headaches, and what you can do to help reduce such pain.

Woman sitting using a smartphone
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Symptoms Associated With Mobile Phone Use

Mobile phone use can cause migraines, headaches, and other symptoms, including dizziness, eye strain, neck pain, and more.

The more you use your mobile phone, the higher your likelihood of developing migraines and other symptoms.

The number of hours that you spend on your phone is directly linked to your headache frequency. Researchers are confident that mobile phone use is what causes the headaches since there is a temporal association, meaning the symptoms typically occur after, not before, the use of these devices.

Interestingly, while migraines and other symptoms typically occur within a few hours of prolonged mobile phone use, one study has found a far more delayed effect. Children who were exposed to cell phone use prior to birth were just as likely to have headaches as children who used mobile phones during the first seven years of childhood.

The authors of the study could not explain this surprising finding and suggested that the influence of prenatal mobile phone exposure on headaches is complicated to sort out.

How Mobile Phones May Cause Migraines

Mobile phone use involves several factors that can contribute to headaches, including looking at the light on the screen, straining your eyes, bending over in a stooped posture, using your hands and fingers to type or play games, and using the phone to make phone calls.

All of these activities have been shown to contribute to migraines and their associated symptoms. Correcting the problem requires a number of strategies, including:

  • Adjusting the light on your screen so it's not too bright
  • Adjusting the font size on your phone to avoid eye strain
  • Being sure to vary your position (sit, stand, and use different types of back support)
  • Considering using dictation for emails and texts
  • Taking a break when your fingers or hands feel strained
  • Using the speakerphone setting when possible instead of holding the phone to your ear

Reducing Your Mobile Phone Use

It is not easy to cut back on cell phone use. Many people have smartphones, which provide access to the Internet and conveniences, such as maps and real-time directions. Availability by email or other electronic communication is expected in many jobs.

Parents like to be available in case children become sick at school or need to be picked up from activities. And, mobile phones also give people the ability to socialize and find fast information and entertainment.

Nevertheless, there are some strategies for reducing cell phone use that can help alleviate headaches:

  • Schedule no-tech time in your home, especially at mealtimes and family time.
  • Use settings that give you sound alerts when you receive a message from certain people—and put your phone on silent otherwise, checking it at scheduled intervals.
  • Put your cell phone somewhere other than your bedroom at night.
  • Look into a hobby that takes you away from technology like swimming, being out in nature, painting, board games, or going to the library.

A Word From Verywell

Managing or avoiding triggers is an essential component in migraine therapy. That being said, avoiding screen time entirely is probably unreasonable for most people. Not only is technology an essential component of daily life functioning, but it also can provide comfort and enjoyment.

The take-home message here is moderation. If you find a pattern between high screen time exposure and your migraines, cutting back is a good idea. In fact, you may find that decreasing your screen time not only reduces your migraines but improves your overall quality of life and well-being, giving you time to engage in other enriching activities.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wang J, Su H, Xie W, Yu S. Mobile phone use and the risk of headache: A systematic review and meta-analysis of cross-sectional studiesSci Rep. 2017;7(1):12595. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-12802-9

  2. Dagli R, Hans R. Effect of mobile phone radiations on oral healthJ Int Oral Health. 2015;7(1):i‐ii.

  3. Auvinen A, Feychting M, Ahlbom A, et al. Headache, tinnitus and hearing loss in the international Cohort Study of Mobile Phone Use and Health (COSMOS) in Sweden and FinlandInt J Epidemiol. 2019;48(5):1567–1579. doi:10.1093/ije/dyz127

  4. Sudan M, Kheifets L, Arah O, Olsen J, Zeltzer L. Prenatal and postnatal cell phone exposures and headaches in children. Open Pediatr Med Journal. 2012;6(2012):46-52. doi:10.2174/1874309901206010046

  5. American Optometric Association. Computer vision syndrome.

Additional Reading

By Colleen Doherty, MD
 Colleen Doherty, MD, is a board-certified internist living with multiple sclerosis.