Our Ritual Motion community, along with the dedicated gaming community at large, knows full well the toll that hours and hours of gaming can take on our bodies. We love the game, we love the sport, and it does wonders for our mental health and social lives. At the same time, gaming runs its course physically, and gamers everywhere experience pain and injury from the intense repetitive motion.
At Ritual Motion, with our focus on gamer health—and keeping gamers healthy—we’re especially attuned to the most common injuries and areas of pain gamers experience. By knowing what they are and what to watch out for, we hope gamers will be more able to see the warning signs and make changes to prevent or treat their pain early on.
In our ‘Win Well’ Gamers Health survey last year, we asked gamers how gaming affected specific areas of the body, including the arms, hands, wrists, back, neck, and head.
Hands, wrists, and arms
The hands, wrists, and arms are the areas that arguably take the greatest hit when gaming. In our ‘Win Well’ Gamers Health survey early this year, 49% of respondents reported feeling pain in these areas while gaming and 50% said they’ve experienced tingling in their arms and hands. Most of the repetitive motions are centered in these regions—repetitive motion plus immense tension, speed, and sometimes great force. It’s a lot. And it often results in not just inflammation, but also carpal tunnel syndrome, gamer’s thumb, and tennis elbow.
More generally, arthritis and tendonitis are common among gamers, considering the many joints and muscle tendons in our hands and wrists that come under strain. Gamers’ thumb, also known as De Quervain syndrome, is a more acute version of tendonitis specifically affecting the tendons attached to our—you guessed it—thumb muscles called the extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis longus. The tendons become inflamed from overuse, causing soreness and pain.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Like gamer’s thumb, carpal tunnel syndrome is also more acute. This syndrome occurs in the carpal tunnel of the wrist, which houses the median nerve. With too much compression limiting the blood flow—whether due to gripping, increased tension, or harmful posturing and placement—the median nerve can get constricted to the point of causing numbness, pain, and tingling. The more this happens, the worse it gets.
Overuse and tension from repetitive motion is the theme that continues as we look at our arms and elbows. Arm tingling can accompany the hand and wrist issues mentioned above, but even beyond that, the elbows have their own cause for concern with tennis elbow among the list of top injuries for gamers. Tennis elbow, scientifically known as lateral epicondylitis, is the inflammation of the tendons attaching your forearm muscles to the outside of your elbow (your lateral epicondyle). It too results from repetitive motion in your wrists and arms and can arise from, or almost be an extension of, the tension and pain in your lower wrists and hands.
In this blog post, we share 5 tips to prevent wrist pain while gaming, including stretching, taking breaks, and having proper device placement for better alignment. But if you’re past the prevention stage and are already experiencing acute pain, we recommend seeing a physical therapist to give you the specific exercises that your body will benefit from to help you get relief.
Back and neck
In our survey, 52% of gamers reported experiencing back and neck pain as a result of gaming, and considering where and how most gamers play, that makes a lot of sense. In the case of video gaming, back and neck pain most commonly results from poor posture, poor device placement, and, of course, too much stress and tension. Poor posture and poor device placement often go hand-in-hand, as poor device placement and a non-ergonomic setup lead to poor posture—hunched back and shoulders, slouching down in your chair, compressing your lower back, jutting your chin forward or craning your neck unnaturally. Ultimately, you experience pain and soreness, a depletion of your muscular strength in those areas, and immense tightness, which leads to greater likelihood for injury and increased pain down the line. If you’re experiencing back and neck pain, or you know your setup isn’t suiting your body well, check out our earlier posts here and here to learn ways you can adjust your device placement and your own playing patterns to reduce your pain and increase your strength in those areas.
One-third of respondents in our survey have experienced eye strain or issues with their vision after gaming. Most of this is the result of blue light. We’ve talked about blue light and the ways overexposure to it can affect your eyesight and vision before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Similar to sunlight, some amount of blue light is good for us, but too much of it—like too much sun—is not so good and can in fact lead to significant stress and damage, what doctors call computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain. The amount of blue light we take in on a daily basis has exponentially grown as our amount of screen time has skyrocketed, but our eyes aren’t built to filter so much of it. They end up having to work harder (and harder more regularly), which causes increased deterioration, retinal damage, and melatonin production issues.
And be sure to participate in our 2021 ‘Win Well Gamers Health Survey’ for a chance to win some great prizes!
Got some tips of your own? Please share in the comments below!