By Stephanie Penny, PT, DPT, OCS
Walking my dog around Lincoln Park in Chicago, I could not help but notice the crowd of people gathered around the South Pond. “Is there a performance?” I wondered to myself. No, turns out it was a Pokémon arena that turned this area into a hot spot. Most likely you have heard of Pokémon GO or seen a person stumbling down the sidewalk while playing.
Pokémon GO is a mobile app that you download to your Android smartphone or iPhone, but play in the real world through augmented reality. In Pokémon GO the aim is to locate, catch, battle and trade Pokémon, and you are encouraged to connect with other nearby Pokémon GO players as you do so.
John Hanke, founder of Niantic, which created Pokémon GO, said: “For the first time, Pokémon will roam free in the real world. Pokémon GO will allow players to capture Pokémon who inhabit parks, shopping areas, sidewalks and the countryside all around the world. Imagine discovering a Squirtle hiding along the waterfront in San Francisco, a Bulbasaur at Shinjuku Station or a Pikachu beneath the Eiffel Tower.” (1)
Watching these Pokémon players through my physical therapist lens, I debated the pros and cons: “People are walking around — this is good. But, wait they are all hunched over looking at their phone — not good.”
The following observations and tips to help people happily play Pokémon GO without incurring nagging injuries, and these tips are also helpful for anyone who finds him or herself hunched over a mobile device on a regular basis!
The Upside: This cartoon depicts an inactive person becoming very fit after starting to play Pokémon GO. Increasing your daily steps towards the daily recommendation of 10,000 steps definitely carries vast benefits, but keep in mind your starting point. If you typically walk only to the car, from the car your job, a few steps around the office and from your car to your home, you likely barely push 2,000 steps per day. I recommend increasing step counts by only 10% per week to allow your muscles and tendons time to adapt.
Now the Downside: Let’s call this cartoon “PokéNeck,” which can also be referred to as text neck or just a pain in the neck!. (3) When you hold your phone this low, the weight of your head increases from around 12 pounds to 60 pounds! That is way too much weight for your neck and back to hold up and results in muscle strain and injuries of the neck, head, middle back and arms.
Achieve PokéPosture Freedom by taking the following steps:
- Hold your phone closer to head level to reduce forward head position.
- Chest stretch, holding for 30 seconds
- Strengthen postural muscles by squeezing your shoulder blades together, hold 5 seconds and repeat 10 times
- Calf Stretch, holding for 30 seconds twice on each side
Good luck in your Pokémon adventures and let me know if you find a nearby Blastoise, Charizard or Dragonite!
Stephanie Penny, PT, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist at PhysioPartners in Chicago, Illinois. She can be reached at email@example.com.