It’s often true for a thing that can be really fun to do, to come along with its own set of problems. Gaming is no exception. The fear of Carpal Tunnel syndrome is now also being linked to gaming, along with a horde of other problems including violent tendencies and obesity. More research leads to more results on the relation between the two, as discussed here.
Gaming is perhaps one of the most entertaining things of our time. You can be glued for hours together to your console or the computer playing the latest in The Elder Scrolls or the Call of Duty series. The thing about gaming today is that you’ll find people of all ages and professions into it. This is one reason to be looking out for in terms of physical fitness and the time put into gaming.
An Overview on the Carpal Tunnel
You have the median nerve running through the center of your wrist. It controls the movements of the thumb side of your hand- from the thumb to the inner half of the ring finger. Carpal Tunnel syndrome is the constriction of this median nerve. The exact reason for this can rarely be pinpointed just on observation and includes Diabetes, Thyroid disorders and daily activities that can tighten the muscles around the nerve. Common physical activities that cause the syndrome are excessive writing (in a wrong manner), sports that include heavy use of the wrist and fingers, and musical instruments like the guitar and the violin.
The problem with Carpal Tunnel syndrome is that it starts out slow. You won’t just wake up one day to find a swollen hand. It starts out as a minor tingling sensation, then sets in as a numbness and a pain that can reach to the elbow. It generally occurs in people from 30 years onwards, but it hasn’t been conclusively reported that it won’t happen in children or teenagers. It happens more to females than males. You are also more likely to get the problem if you’re a smoker.
Gaming and the Median Nerve
Judging by the way the average person holds the console or uses the keyboard, it’s obvious the kind of beating that the thumbs and the wrist take every time. It’s therefore, logical to try to link gaming to the problem.
Injuries due to Gaming
Gamers know about the problem they call the Nintendo thumb. It’s what you get when you abuse the controller keys in an effort to win the game. It generally starts out as a minor cramp under the thumb on the palm. The problem can further complicate into tendonitis or bursitis.
If you’re using a controller, you’ll notice that you’re using the thumb part of your hand a lot more than the other half. This causes a muscle imbalance, making the muscles on that part pressure the wrist, while the other side can’t keep up with that pressure.
Research on the Situation
There have been several tests conducted to try to establish a relation between Carpal Tunnel syndrome and gaming. There have, however, been no conclusive results. This includes The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in Maryland. Not all subjects showed early signs of nerve strain, leading to Carpal Tunnel syndrome.
It has been observed that if an adolescent may suffer from the problem, it will most likely be due to excessive gaming. Bear in mind that ‘excessive’ means more than 4-5 hours at a stretch, without breaks. This means that gaming (regarding finger use) can be similar to any physical activity. If done too much in one go, it will harm your hands.
You run a low risk of getting Carpal Tunnel syndrome as a teen, even into your late 20s. But that does not mean you can keep playing all the games you want non-stop. The best solution would be to play for an hour, then take a small break to stretch out your hands and fingers. The idea is to lower the pressure on the median nerve. Stopping for 10 minutes after every hour is a small price to pay for ensuring that you can still use your hands just as good when you’re older. This goes for all types of gamers- whether it’s the PC, the portable, the console, or Wii. You can do some simple exercises while you take the break to make sure your hand muscles do not strain too much.
If you’re 30 or above, you need to take extra care of the amount of time and effort you put into gaming. The problem will be compounded if you’re working all day on the computer and coming home to play in the night. It is too much stress for your fingers to handle and they will eventually give in. The thing about Carpal Tunnel syndrome is, it has more to do with inactivity than activity. What that means is, when you rest your hands on the lower edge of the keyboard or on the mouse, you keep stressing a small area of your hand, while the rest of the hand stays relatively inactive. This will cause muscle imbalance and create more problems. As I mentioned earlier, it gets worse if you’re suffering from (or are susceptible to) problems like Diabetes or Thyroid disorders.
Don’t get me wrong, gaming is a brilliant thing. But like all things in life, it needs to be done in moderation. Even if you do suffer from Carpal Tunnel syndrome, there are solutions to it, the last resort being surgery. But you’ll probably lose the dexterity that you used to have before. So, if you think you got the Nin-tendon to beat the Game, you need to take care of it too!