The lights are on
Between the joystick, keyboard and mouse, standard control pads, plastic guitars, motion controllers, and touch screens, the way we interact with video games has come a long way. Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives; we can easily spend hours each day typing, mouse clicking, and button mashing. Without proper precautionary measures, these slight, repetitive movements of the hands and wrists can lead to a number of injuries. What can start as a simple hand cramp can evolve into a long-term health problem if left untreated.We spoke with Dr. David Rempel, professor at the University of California San Francisco’s department of medicine, about some of the risks of carpal tunnel. The field expert explains some of the warning signs to consider as well as prevention tips. Common problems and causes
Carpel tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand, becomes compressed at the wrist. The median nerve, which is one of the largest nerves to the hand, controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers as well as small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. When the connective tissue of the carpal tunnel surrounding the median nerve becomes irritated or inflamed, it compresses the median nerve, leading to numbness, pain, tingling, or weakness in the hand and wrist. Carpal tunnel is just one problem that can afflict gamers. Rempel says that more commonly cited problems from repetitive motion activities include wrist or elbow tendonitis, and shoulder or neck myalgia (muscle pain). While avid gamers may have a hand cramp occur during a gaming session from time to time, it’s certainly worth seeing a medical professional if you’re having persistent pain. If the discomfort you’re experiencing is in fact from carpal tunnel and is left untreated, the condition can lead to permanent hand numbness and even disability in the most serious cases. Which control set up is more likely to cause injury?
According to Rempel, use of a keyboard is not a large risk factor to developing CTS. In fact, he says that use of a mouse is the stronger contributor. When asked which among standard current-gen controllers are more likely to cause injury from repetitive use, he notes that this has yet to be studied, however he was able to provide a few words on the possible risk factors of motion controllers:
“Devices that require sustained pinching or gripping, are used for hours per day in a non-neutral wrist posture, or require rapid wrist motions to use, may pose a risk,” Rempel says. “But the primary factor is the number of hours per week that this type of hand activity is done.”Other risk factorsJust because you engage in video game marathons or spend countless hours on your computer for work and leisurely activities, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop CTS. Other factors play a role in developing the condition as well, such as age, obesity, diabetes, pregnancy, thyroid disorders, and work that requires repetitive, forceful hand use, such as manufacturing jobs. Women are also more likely to develop CTS than men.Diagnosis and treatment
If persistent pain occurs, you can see a physician or nurse practitioner who can diagnose you based on symptoms and a physical examination. For definitive diagnosis that can rule out more common problems such as tendonitis or myalgia, a medical professional can perform a nerve conduction study that tests for paresthesias (numbness, tingling, burning) or weakness in the affected area.
There are four possible treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome: Changing hand activities to reduce risk (taking more breaks when gaming or discontinuing play for an allotted time altogether), use of a wrist splint when sleeping, injections of corticosteroids into the wrist, and in more extreme cases, carpal tunnel release surgery to relieve pressure from the median nerve.
To help avoid injury, Rempel recommends gaming in good posture and keeping your hands in a comfortable position, taking regular breaks (every 20 to 30 minutes is ideal), and most importantly, be mindful of aches, pains, and numbness in hands, arms, and shoulders. If symptoms occur during a gaming session, it’s probably best to just put the controller down. Check back every day this week for new stories spotlighting health issues in gaming. Here are some of the other Health Week features you may have missed:
Keep Your Eyes Open: Sleep Deprivation And Gaming
In Focus: The Vision Problems Facing Gamers
Food Fight: Maintaining A Healthy Diet While Gaming
These health tips are interesting but they make me paranoid and I start thinking about my hands and how maybe they do feel weird but I don't think they do.
I haven't talked to a doctor about it yet but I've got real bad problems. I can't even fill out a birthday card without intense pain. So long as I have ergonomic accessories and rest my hands in my lap when I play I avoid pain.
Writing with a pen is over rated anyway.
It sucks to have CTS especially when it not only affects your gaming life but your job as well. I usually just stretch my arm muscles out every once in a while.
It also helps to know a Massage Therapist :)
honestly i dont think theres to much prevention. Its tough luck if you get this.
I'll never hold my Mouse the same way again...
That ship has already sailed...
My GF is getting her doctorate in PT in a couple weeks, so I should be all set.
There's more than one way to get Carpel Tunnel that doesn't involve electronics.
Tjis is true i have carpal tunnel :( It is terrible. Listen before u get it
I feel more pain in my wrists when I write and bake and crochet (shush I like crafts) than when I play games. And usually cracking my wrists makes the pain go away. But I've been really diligent about making sure my wrists don't hurt when I do anything. Sometimes my thumbs go numb, but I can't go see a doctor yet. I will once it gets worse though....
Good idea for a series. Keep them coming, and don't worry about those comments from the gamers still in high school, they're "still comin up".