Video Game Stress Injuries

Have you ever hurt yourself playing video games? Apparently, it’s possible. We’re not immortal, y’all. Take note.

Raids and marathon gaming are a ton of fun. With the new releases expected in the fall, who else is dying to hop on Borderlands 3? We are all looking at some serious time commitments to the games we love. This inevitably put a strain on our bodies.

When you think “gaming injuries” maybe you think of the ridiculous tales that came after the release of the Nintendo Wii? And crazy stories of Virtual Reality mishaps? Perhaps, if you’re as old as I am, an old school arcade brawl comes to mind. Marathon gaming and long raids can be just as damaging though. Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) can be a real issue for gamers, especially since we are also students, office workers, and avid techies that are already at risk. RSIs include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow and gamer’s thumb (who knew this was a thing!?).

Earlier this year I had surgery on my hand that left me susceptible to an RSI. Hobbies, chores and work became difficult and sometimes impossible. I have been working with doctors, a physiotherapist and a kinesiologist to get me back to working order. The biggest worry was that their best advice would entail cutting out favourite hobbies and creative outlets entirely. Other than an initial rest period, they never suggested that it was a good idea to stop anything outright (thank goodness!).

This experience has provided me with some tips and pointers to share, but first, let me preface this with the disclaimer that I am not a medical professional. If you find yourself with any warning signs you should seek a professional’s help.

Avoidance Techniques

Hydrate

Possibly sounds ridiculous, but when you aren’t hydrated your body hates you and likes to rebel.

Sleep

Again, when you don’t sleep your body hates you and let’s face it, as gamers, we frequently suck at getting enough. Sleep is when your body likes to heal and recover. If you starve yourself of sleep, your whole body suffers. The upside to extra sleep is your reflexes, cognitive function and response time are better (i.e. better gaming!).

Rest

When diving into a raid or a marathon session, it is important to remember that getting up and stretching regularly will help keep everything in working order. Ideally, every 20 minutes is recommended. Reality? Possibly not going to happen quite so frequently. But, there are natural stopping points in anything, including those Destiny 2 raids. Instead of plowing straight through, take a moment to stretch. Tell the crew you have to pee. Hell, if you listened to the first piece of advice, you probably have to anyway. At that point take a few moments to stretch; especially your arms, hands and fingers.

Relaxation

This may be the hardest piece of advice to follow. I tense up and grip my controller in exciting and difficult moments. However, tensing up causes strain and terrible posture that exacerbates issues.  Keep your grip loose, relax your arms right down from your shoulders to your fingertips and rest them in your lap while you game (at least try your best to).

Warning Signs

Even if you follow this advice you may find yourself having problems. Warning signs include, but are not limited to:

  • Purposefully avoiding activities in order to not use your hand or arm (driving, carrying groceries, writing, or any other manual labour)
  • Using your non-dominant hand more frequently to alleviate/avoid pain in your dominant hand and arm
  • Experiencing the locking up of joints
  • Consistent soreness in the hand, wrist or elbow
  • Weakness in the hand, wrist or elbow (This can manifest itself as shaking when you grip or perform a task)

Again, I am not a medical professional. Please seek the help of one if you are hurting. Wishing you all safe and healthy gaming!

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