You’re playing for at least six hours a day to boost your APM. You’re determined to beat the level. Your follower count is climbing. You can’t stop now, right?
You’ve begun to feel some tingling in your fingers and forearm. Your hands seem to be cold all the time. And at the end of a long session, your thumb feels too weak to continue.
Sounds like it’s time to check in with your body and habits during play. Hand and wrist pain has become a big part of the gaming and eSports world, leading some players to develop serious repetitive motion injuries and conditions, like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, tendonitis, and gamer’s thumb. Many players either don’t know how to prevent the pain from happening or how to stop it from getting worse. And while it’s always important to keep going for your goal and improving your game—that’s why we’re here right?!—it’s even more important to stay healthy while doing so.
Here are 5 top tips to prevent pain and long-term damage to your wrists (and the rest of your body) while gaming:
1. Take breaks.
Of course you don’t want to! There will always be reasons you’ll want to press on, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to take at least a 5-minute break for every 60 minutes of play. If you need to, set a timer to remind yourself, and when it goes off, stop. Even better: Get up and move around to jumpstart your blood flow throughout the rest of your body.
2. Do stretches and exercises for your hands and arms.
Our hands and fingers are under great duress while gaming, and it doesn’t help that we get so excited we often over-grip the mouse and jam the keys intensely. So, it’s important to stretch out those gripping and jamming muscles. Our favorite stretch is to hold one arm straight out with your palm facing away; then pull the fingers of that hand back with your free hand. Do the same thing with each finger individually, and then stretch the other hand.
Dr. Levi Harrison, an orthopedic surgeon in LA who specializes in hands and upper extremities, has treated many, many gamers, and he has a YouTube channel with several videos catering to gamers’ health. In this video, he shares a handful of helpful hand and wrist exercises for gamers to build into their regular gaming routine.
3. Sit with appropriate posture and device placement.
All too often as players we hunch over our keyboards and strain our necks looking at a screen too far away or too high up without thinking twice. But changing your posture and the placement of your devices has a huge impact on muscle and tendon fatigue.
For good posture…
Sit with your feet flat on the ground with your knees at an even 90-degree angle.
Sit up straight or lean slightly back, but do not hunch. If you know posture is a problem for you, look for posture-correcting cushions or pillows for lumbar support. Additionally, do core and back strengthening exercises to better support long hours in your chair.
Try raising the height if your screen(s) a few inches. Too often, a low screen can cause us to crane our neck and hunch over into a chronic stressful posture.
As for your devices, listen to Dr. Rachel Rohde, another upper extremity specialist in orthopedic surgery, who says, “It likely is not the act of using the keyboard or other gadgets that is the issue, but the position in which people are using them that makes them prone to problems.”
First, make sure your chair is tall enough so when your forearms extend they are either level with the keyboard or extending downwards toward it. This keeps blood flowing to your wrists and hands, instead of cutting it off by angling your forearms upwards.
Second, use wrist pads sparingly since they put your joint at a bad angle, causing more stress to the nerve and tendon in the carpal tunnel.
Lastly, adjust your screen height so your eyes are level with the top half or third of the screen.
4. Wear gloves and keep your hands warm.
All athletes need to keep their muscles warm during play. For gamers that means keeping your hands and wrists warm. Compression gloves are a great way to keep the blood circulating, and in fact, we have our own Ritual Motion Gaming Skins with adjustable wrist straps for optimal support. When not wearing compression gloves, fingerless gloves are a good alternative. You can also run your hands under warm water periodically to keep everything moving well.
5. Listen to your body.
Always, always, always listen to your body during gameplay. If you start having pain, that’s your body’s way of telling you it needs rest, and it’s during rest that our bodies make repairs. So, do not push through pain for the sake of immediate gain. Think long-term—if you don’t rest now, you may end up shortening your gaming life and forcing long-term rest down the road. For additional help, ice and anti-inflammatories are good aids, but it’s also a great idea to seek out physical therapy to learn what exercises your specific body may need to sustain a career in gaming for many years.
So go forth and practice good hand and wrist health, so you can win well, and make winning a ritual.