The Pokemon catch phrase is “Gotta catch em all” but I don’t believe that includes neck pain! Pokemon Go is a fun game designed to get you outdoors and moving but there are some important factors you must consider to ensure your long-term health and safety.
The main injury associated with excessive cell phone use is neck pain. Most of us have a sore neck from time-to-time due activities that involve things like prolonged computer use, studying and sitting with our head in a flexed forward position. The problem with Pokemon (and all other cell phone activities that involve you looking down at your screen for long periods of time) is the amount of pressure this posture creates on our necks.
A 2014 study showed that when your head is flexed forward 45 degrees (a common posture for people looking down at their phones) that this exerts 50 pounds of pressure on your neck! This increases to 60 pounds with 60 degrees of neck flexion!
Our design as humans can tolerate this stress and pressure but when you consider the cumulative effect of this trauma over months and years it will result in neck pain. One to two hours a day of looking down at your phone would equal 1250-hours/year, which shocking equates to 300,000 pounds of neck pressure over a four-year period.
Considering that it is our children that commonly play Pokemon Go and they already sit a lot, use the computer for school and their usual cell phone habits (outside of any games they play) already exceeds one to two hours a day, adding Pokemon Go to your routine can cause some significant strain to your neck!
Here are some suggestions to still play but mitigate your risks for neck pain while playing Pokemon Go:
- Know your Poke Stops:
- Plan ahead by knowing where you have to go, don’t constantly look at your phone until you arrive at your stop.
- Look up more:
- Looking down isn’t bad, but looking down for long stretches of time can be. Make sure you look up more, rotate your head from side to side just to give your neck muscles and joint a little stretch.
- Be smart about the time you spend on your phone:
- The best way to not strain your neck, is to not strain your neck. Activities that involve prolonged sitting, computer or cell phone use will all stress/strain your neck. Consider how much time you spend doing each and plan accordingly. So basically try to be mindful and make modifications in you find you are spending a lot of time doing these activities.
- See a practitioner for hands-on therapy and preventative advice:
- Reducing the strain that is caused in your neck by getting hands-on therapy, coupled with exercise/stretch advice will help significantly. Check out Dr. Kangarloo’s past blog post on neck pain exercises for some things you can start today.
Moral of the story: Be smart, don’t PINP your neck!
Written by Dr. Alim Kara BSc, DC