The Pokémon Go sensation has been credited with getting people up and moving. Players reap health benefits by walking miles to capture Pokémon and hatch Pokémon eggs, and that's great! Hours spent sitting is one of the biggest culprits behind back pain and many other health problems, and for a large part, Pokémon Go players are likely healthier for time spent playing the game. However, if you’re one of the many people who enjoys Pokémon Go, there is a potential downside you should be aware of — text neck.
What is "Text Neck"?
Text neck is a condition that occurs when people spend long periods of time staring down, with a bent neck and hunched shoulders. Historically we have assumed this posture for many activities, such as writing, creating art and sewing, but modern addiction to mobile devices has led to a dramatic increase in the number of technology-related back pain cases in recent years. The average person spends at least three hours a day looking at their phone, and Pokémon Go players may spend even more time with their head bent down.
What’s the Big Deal?
The most common initial symptoms of text neck are soreness and inflammation. While this might not seem like a big deal, these are early warning signs of conditions that can get progressively worse if not addressed. Continuous stress on neck muscles and vertebrae can lead to more serious conditions, including tight shoulders, upper back pain, muscle spasms, pinched nerves, herniated discs and bone spurs. Text neck effects are particularly frightening in growing children and young adults, whose developing spines are at greatest risk of bone and muscle degeneration and deformity.
What Can I Do to Prevent Text Neck?
If you or someone you care about enjoy playing Pokémon Go (or any other mobile game!) there’s no need to panic. There are steps you can take to minimize the risk of text neck while safely enjoying your gaming experience.
1. Keep your phone at eye level
The simplest way to prevent text neck is to avoid hunching your neck down! Holding your phone higher prevents the problematic posture and can also improve your overall safety by making you more aware of your surroundings and less likely to run into something.
2. Stretch your neck
Keep your neck healthy by making a habit of doing a few gentle stretches every time you catch a Pokémon. Tilt your head side to side a few times and then rotate to look over each shoulder.
3. Take advantage of Pokémon Go’s settings
You can help avoid text neck by activating Pokémon Go’s vibrate and sound effect settings. Your phone will vibrate whenever you encounter a Pokémon while walking around, so you don’t have to constantly stare at your screen to catch them all.
4. Take a break
Aim to turn your screen off for a few minutes every hour. You’ll save battery life and reap the benefits of unplugging every so often. An ounce of prevention will keep you playing for years to come.
What Should I Do if I’m Already Experiencing Neck Pain?
Dr. Kelly Kiehm of Capital City Neurosurgery specializes in spinal care and minimally invasive spinal surgery for patients in the Columbus, Ohio area. Dr. Kiehm can provide a full examination to identify any areas of concern and make recommendations to improve spinal health. If you’re concerned about ongoing neck or back pain, schedule a consultation today.