Coping with Video Game Related Repetitive Stress Injuries

If you play video games and your hands start to hurt, you run the risk of suffering a repetitive stress injury that causes pain and even numbness in your hands. These symptoms are caused by swelling and compression along the carpal tunnel, a sheath for a nerve and some tendons that run from the palm to the shoulder.

There are a variety of therapies and devices available that gamers have used to mitigate this pain; however, if you have significant pain and numbness, you should definitely consult a medical professional first—they can advise on exactly what you should do in your specific case, and help avert a worsening or serious injury.

Here are some therapies and treatments others have used to help when their hands hurt from gaming.

Basic Hand Stretches

Nothing is more important than hand stretches. In fact, if you regularly take breaks from playing games and using your computer to stretch, you have a good chance of avoiding problems altogether.

For a common hand and palm stretch: Hold your hand in front of you, palm facing away, fingers pointed up or down. Then, gently pull your fingers towards you with the other hand. Follow this by pointing the fingers down with the palm facing you, and placing your free hand against the back of the hand you’re stretching. Gently pull your hand towards you once again.

A variation of these stretches is to pull on just the index and middle fingers, instead of all four fingers at once. Then do the same with the ring and pinky fingers separately.

Hand Strengthening

For strengthening, the best thing to use is Theraputty, which is like a big ball of silly putty that you squeeze. This is often preferred to squeezing balls or other devices, because these can cause you to do the same motion in the same way, which isn’t good because that’s what caused the trouble to begin with.

Nerve Flossing

If you’re in a lot of pain, you may need some more serious exercises to get your hands in shape.

One thing you can try is nerve flossing. This is movement to slide the nerve along the carpal tunnel. To do this, try holding your arm straight down, palm forward and hand a few inches from your body. Then, flex the wrist back and returning it to neutral, like your hand is a little wing and you’re flapping it. Do this 30 times.

Physical Therapy

If you see a physician for your pain, one of the first treatments suggested is physical therapy. A common mistake people make when doing physical therapy is slacking off or stopping when their pain begins to subside. Once you have an injury, you have to think of it as a permanent thing you must constantly work on, rather than something you fix before going back to normal.

Some other therapies that you may encounter include ultrasound and electrostimulation, and the alternative methods Active Release Technique and Graston Technique.

Ergonomics

One of the best solutions for hand and wrist pain is to try to avoid it in the first place. This is where ergonomics comes in.

For example, when working at the computer, you’re should have your monitor and keyboard set at a proper height, and you should keep your feet flat on the floor. If you’re playing video games, you are also better off seated properly. Unfortunately, most gamers tend to slump on the couch. Avoid this, and be aware of how your body is positioned when playing, because when you’re engrossed in a great game, you can be in these slouchy and awkward positions for extended periods of time without even realizing it, and thats a recipe for all kinds of physical maladies.

Take breaks, get up, stretch, and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes.

If you play your games on a computer at a desk, set up your computer ergonomically. Also, the use of a mouse for extended periods can be stressful on your hand and wrist. You may want to try a zero-tension mouse like the 3M Ergonomic Mouse, which is basically a control stick on a base that allows you to hold your hand in a vertical, palm-facing-in position.

Other Stuff to Try

Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen (brand names Advil and Aleve, respectively) can relieve swelling and reduce pain.

Ice packs or a heating pad can also help.

If you also get pain in your shoulders, which can happen (especially with the Wii), massage can help. Find a tight, sore spot, put your finger on it, press hard and move your finger over the spot. Do this ten times, only in one direction.

5 Dangerous Gaming Injuries And How To Avoid Them

Imagine that you can no longer grasp a can of soda without your wrist feeling like it wants to explode. That, my friend, is what that innocent-looking game console can do to you. I’m not speaking about this as a medical expert, or as a concerned parent hoping to sway kids from playing video games, but as a witness to the pain and suffering that extreme gaming can cause to the human body.

My gaming addiction actually started when I was about 13 – caused by the original Ultima series produced by Origin Systems. After seeking out magic runes and battling cyclops well into the night, I had officially caught the gaming bug. It was an affliction that stuck with me through the rest of high school, into college, and even into my early marriage and parenting years. I eased off of gaming a little in college, but it wasn’t until after our children had entered their toddler years and there was a little more free time, that I re-entered the gaming action in full-force once again. That time, it was Medal of Honor Online.

The combination of staying up all night playing Medal of Honor, working at a desk all day as an automation engineer, and then writing online in the evenings eventually took its toll. I started feeling a strange tingling in the wrist, combined with a numb feeling up the side of my thumb. This eventually evolved into a terrible pain whenever I bent my wrist or my thumb at a certain angle or squeezed my hand.  I was completely at a loss as to what was causing it, until one night while gaming, I realized that I was resting my wrist flat on the desk, with my hand tilted at an odd upward angle on top of the mouse. It was then that it dawned on me – I officially had Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

A Gaming Injury You Don’t Want – Carpal Tunnel

A visit to the Doctor confirmed my fear. I had aggravated the major nerve that passes over the carpal bones in my wrist. The Doctor at least gave me some good news – it wasn’t a syndrome unless the condition returned again after recovery, but the bad news was that recovery would require immobilizing my thumb for several weeks, potentially months. My gaming days were over.

When you make a living on the computer, the prospect of having your mouse-hand immobilized and rendered incapable of using a mouse is a scary thing. Let’s just say I learned to use the mouse with my left hand for a while.

Eye Strain – It Can Happen to You

I’m convinced that one side-effect of staring at a screen for nearly 9-15 hours a day since I was 9 years old is that I ended up needing glasses at the age of 35. It actually might have started earlier, as I had been having the symptoms of it for years – sore and burning eyes, headache, sensitivity to light and even a sore neck. I dealt with the symptoms until the headaches just got too bad.

My eyes were nearly 20-20, however using his exotic-looking machine, the doctor determined that one eye was just a smidgen off. He said he wouldn’t even recommend glasses for most people with such a small prescription, but since my screen-use is in excess of a normal person, he prescribed me a pair of “computer” glasses.

Posture – Sit Up!

There are two really common gaming positions for avid gamers. There’s the “couch slouch”, where the gamer is just chilling with feet up on the coffee table and slouched back into the couch. Then, there’s the “full-on” position – usually in the heat of an FPS battle – that involves leaning forward, elbows on knees, head tilted forward, and all attention and focused on the screen.

Full-Contact Injuries

You wouldn’t think that sports injuries would make up one of the more common gaming injuries, but thanks to the advent of the Wii, gamers now have to deal with many of the same injuries that athletes do, and sometimes even more. Those innocent-looking Wii Nunchucks turned out to be not so innocent after all.

Pulled Muscles and Sprains

Athletes that run marathons even know that not stretching before any rigorous physical activity will lead to pulled muscles, or even worse, injuries like a sprained ankle. Stretching loosens up the muscles and prepares your body for the stress that is to come – even for just a 30 minute run. But once the Wii and other motion-sensor gaming consoles came out, you’ve got a whole population of former couch potatoes suddenly jumping up and trying to do 1-2 hours of activities like tennis, boxing and bowling without giving a second thought to stretching first. Afterwards, there’s all sorts of confusion about all the terrible muscle pains and soreness.

 

How to Become a More Focused Gamer

Sit properly. While playing a video Game, it is best to sit down in a nice sturdy chair. The best posture is sitting down, with both feet on the ground, at a 100-degree angle. This takes pressure off the back and helps with comfort.

Be hygienic. Take a shower, even if it’s a quick three-minute navy shower. Wash and dry off your hands and face well, dry and comb your hair, and wear comfortable clothing! It makes a big difference. Another good tip to get your reflexes nice and jittery is to wash with some sort of mint body wash. Mint leaves a nice cooling sensation on the body, which generally leads to good comfort.

  • Avoid having greasy hands by any and all means. This may become difficult if your hands are moisturized; in that case, go and do something else until they feel wet without actually looking wet. Dry off with a hand towel, and see if they are still greasy. If they are, just wait it off-maybe go to GameFAQs [1] to get/give some help!

Remember that confidence is key. And of course, the next logical step would be to be confident. And make sure to write “gaming” on that list you’re making! Don’t just be generally confident; be gaming-confident.

Ensure your eye fixations are in good condition. If you wear contacts, make sure they are not dry. If you wear glasses, make sure they are clean.

Keep skilled through practice. Finally, have a lot of fun. There’s not much one can say on either, except that just keep doing what makes you tick.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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