Video games have exploded in popularity over the past several decades and today, what was once considered an activity enjoyed only by a fringe element of society has hit the mainstream, with people of all ages and demographics spending their leisure time gaming on computers, consoles, and mobile devices. While you may not consider gaming to be a physical activity, it can actually be quite strenuous on the joints, muscles, and connective tissues of the hands, arms, and spine. If you or someone you know likes to play video games, Resurgens Orthopaedics would like you to be aware of the potential risk for injury so you can mitigate it as much as possible and ensure your gaming sessions don't come with any negative side effects. Here are a few injuries associated with gaming that you may not have thought about before:
Because playing console games and mobile games relies heavily on repetitive and strenuous thumb movements, many gamers have fallen victim to a condition known as de Quervain's Tenosynovitis, which has become commonly known as Gamer's Thumb. This condition is characterized by an inflammation in the tendons that control thumb movement and can cause pain or limited mobility in the thumbs.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
PC, console, and mobile gaming can all force you to make rapid and repetitive wrist and finger movements, putting a lot of strain on the tendons that travel through the carpal tunnel, a passageway that allows tendons and nerves to pass through the wrist bones into the hand. When these nerves and connective tissues become inflamed through repetitive movement, they can press against the walls of the carpal tunnel, making it painful to move the wrist.
Using a mobile phone can put a great deal of strain on the neck (one study estimated as much as 60 pounds, depending on the angle of tilt), and when you play mobile games, you might maintain this hunched-over posture for hours at a time. This can create pain, stiffness, and soreness in the neck and shoulders as well as muscular weakness and headaches. Although this condition has only recently been identified and studies have yet to establish a conclusive link between mobile device use and neck injuries, it stands to reason that poor posture could be the culprit behind neck and shoulder pain in the digital age.
Preventing Video Gaming Injuries
If you're already experiencing the symptoms of the video gaming injuries listed above or you're interested in preventing them, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk. First of all, try to limit the length of your gaming sessions. We know it's difficult, but try to limit how much time you spend gaming in one sitting and remember to take frequent breaks to re-hydrate and stretch. Ask your doctor about stretches you can do to improve the flexibility and mobility of your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck. You can also try to make your gaming setup more ergonomic with wrist pads for your keyboard and mouse, an adjustable gaming chair, and adjustable height monitors or TV mounts that bring your screen up to eye level. As for text neck, focus on maintaining good posture any time you're looking at your phone for long periods of time and take a break if your neck starts to feel tired.
At Resurgens Orthopaedics, we believe that playing video games can be fun and even beneficial in some ways; just be sure your marathon gaming sessions don't end up taking a toll on your body. Until next time, have a great time trying to break your high score, and always remember to maintain a healthy balance between gaming and real life.