If you’ve been playing video games for some time, chances are you’ve probably experienced pain in your hands or wrist at some point, especially after a long session. What you may have written off as a minor discomfort, may actually have been the beginning of serious problems that could have been easily avoided. Most gamers would agree that the feeling of pain or rigidness in their hands usually is in the wrist areas, at the base of the palms, as well as the first index, middle, and ring fingers on each hand. At first some feel compelled to move their fingers while rotating their wrist as a means to loosen up the entire hand from what may feel like cramped muscles and a tingling feeling. Yet after repeated instances of this, it becomes increasingly more difficult to relax the hands as a feeling of pain and discomfort becomes more common.
This is the beginning of what can be known as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). The American Medical Association defines CTS as an inflammation in the area under a ligament, tough tissue that connects bones and muscle together, in front of the wrist. This inflammation affects the median nerve, a nerve that runs through the palm of the wrist and into the index, middle, and ring fingers as well as the thumb. The compression of the median nerve from the inflammation can lead to the same effects that many gamers feel after using their controllers for an extended period of time.
According to US National Library of Medicine in an overview of CTS, “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is present in 3.8% of the general population”. That means out of the 319,169,190 people that live in the United States, a possible 12,128,429 of those people might possibly have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. That is a lot of hurt hands from holding a game controller.
A lot of issues for gamers developing signs of CTS usually come from not being aware of some basic and easily adjustable behaviors when gaming. It doesn’t matter what platform you play your games on. All console, PC, and handheld gamers can be affected while gaming in a bad posture, not taking small breaks, or stressfully handling a controller or joystick repeatedly over a long time. Mildred Crespo, a registered nurse in New Rochelle, New York recommends that gamers learn to break up their gaming sessions rather than powering through for hours on end.
“It’s all about positioning of the hands. Taking rest periods here and there will allow muscles to rest and a person’s hand position to be more dynamic so they don’t develop Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.” This doesn’t mean that you have to flat out stop playing video games all together. Instead spread out your gaming with small breaks in between, while also being aware of how you hold your controller or mouse & keyboard.
But can gamers take other measures to prevent getting CTS and really injuring their hands? Some people would most likely believe increasing their grip strength through the use of a stress-ball or hand-stretches may be enough. Others may go even further and partake in exercises such as the “Farmer’s Carry”, a bodybuilding exercise used to increase grip strength. Some would also argue that the kinds of foods one eats may even play a factor to all of this. Can strengthening the muscles in your hands from exercises or even diet influence the likelihood of developing CTS? Mildred disagrees.
“No, nutrition has nothing to do with it occurring. It’s more based on the kind of activity one partakes in. Grip strength exercises and stretching can somewhat help, but also possibly make it worse because of increasing pressure on the nerve in the hands. Other factors from daily life, like using a cell phone or computer, can play a factor to getting CTS. Not just playing video games.”
Health is not something that gamers are usually concerned with, especially with all the outlandish myths and stories out there about gamer health. Yet knowing how to prevent anything hindering your gaming experience is a great asset. Having healthy hands is a big plus for any gamer. After all, how can you really use a controller when you can’t use your hands?
Do you think other things besides hands healthy are important for gaming? Have you got carpal tunnel after playing video games for a long time? Leave us a comment below in the comments section and tell us your stories.