Do you experience pain in your hands or wrists while playing video games? Perhaps that fire button finger of yours is the problem, and it could contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is Carpal Tunnel?
The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow passage near the anterior (palm) side of the wrist that contains the major tendons that flex your fingers. It also contains nerves that move through to the hand. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is an instance of pain, numbness, and/or tingling that occurs as a result of this nerve being pinched, squeezed, or compressed. Most often, this condition will arise due to a series of repetitive movements performed over a long period of time, such as typing on a keyboard or button-mashing a controller. This can cause inflammation and swelling of the tendons. Since space is limited in the carpel tunnel, this puts pressure on the nerves.
What are the Common Symptoms?
Most of the time, CTS symptoms will start gradually, beginning with an intermittent numbness and tingling sensation that starts in the thumbs, index, and middle fingers. Over time, you may also begin to experience discomfort in the wrist and palm of the hand, or a sensation similar to that of an electric shock.
You may also find that the tingling and numbness sensation progresses throughout the rest of your hand and fingers. It is possible for the sensation to move from your wrist all the way up your arm, and can also occur while holding a steering wheel, book, or phone.
Additionally, you could experience weakness in your hand, along with an inability to maintain a firm grip on objects. This is mainly due to the pain this activity causes and is just another result of the numbness and pain of the nerves and tendons within the carpal tunnel.
How are Video Games and CTS connected?
As video gaming requires a set of repetitive movement in the hands, it is possible to develop CTS as a result, especially when playing frequently and for long periods of time. In fact, among the most common injuries correlated with video gaming, carpal tunnel syndrome is at the top of the list. While PC, console, and mobile gamers may experience slightly differing symptoms of CTS, the end cause is the same – repetitive motion.
Are there Methods of Prevention?
Despite this correlation, it is important to remember that video gaming is not always a direct cause of CTS, and therefore should be treated like any other case: with moderation. When dealing with carpal tunnel, there are steps that can be taken to help reduce the symptoms and occurrences of a flare-ups. Most importantly, you must take breaks and give your body time to relax. In addition, be sure to:
- Perform basic hand stretching and strengthening exercises. Our previous blog regarding CTS for artists has a few demonstrations.
- Avoid overly-cold work conditions and keep your hands/wrists/and forearms warm. Use gloves or turn up the heater if necessary.
- Maintain good wrist form and posture to avoid strain. If you are playing on a computer, your wrists should not be bent at an awkward angle, and your hands should be able to rest flat and comfortably. If you play using a console, make sure your grip on the controller is firm but relaxed, and make sure you are holding the controller properly, as directed by the console’s user manual.
- Enhance the ergonomics of your work environment. Buy a wrist cushion for your keyboard, or try using a mouse/controller more suited to the natural movement of your hands. For console gamers, it can be harder to find gaming peripherals that are compatible and approved for use with your device, so it may be more important to pick a console whose standard controller feels the most comfortable and intuitive in your hands. Your hands will thank you later.
When should I seek treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
You should seek treatment for CTS as soon as any symptoms begin to appear. If you find that you are experiencing difficulty performing your daily activities or pain in the hand or wrist, please make an appointment with your primary care physician immediately. Receiving professional treatment will make navigating CTS much easier for you, and promote your ability to return to a regular level of activity.
Medical Reviewed by Dr. Roman Shulze