Carpal Tunnel Syndrome sure does sound like a strange condition. And unlike what you might think, this condition has absolutely nothing to do with the tunnels we occasionally drive through on long roundtrips.
It has nothing to do with your location nor with the things you see.
Carpet Tunnel Syndrome or CTS occurs when the ‘tunnel’ of ligaments and bones in your wrist has narrowed.
The cluster of ligaments and bones in this narrow region causes nerves to get pinched. You may experience several symptoms like a tingly feeling, hand numbness and more. This doesn’t seem serious until it is time to give it you’re all on your favorite video game. This condition can restrict hand and wrist movement and can cause a lot of pain leaving you unable to enjoy gaming to the fullest.
Carpal tunnel can result from many sources but getting carpal tunnel from video games is one of the most common root causes of this problem.
Many believe that the repetitive motions you perform while playing video games might be one of the leading causes of this syndrome.
Where Is This Tunnel?
Turn your hand with your palm facing upward. The position just beneath the skin in your wrist is called the tunnel.
Nine tendons and one nerve passes through this tunnel via tissues that join these tendons and nerves to other parts of your body. This tunnel stretches from the forearm to the wrist.
The bottom part of the tunnel is formed by your wrist bones and top of the tunnel is covered by a ligament (a strong band of connective tissue).
All nerves and tendons need to smoothly slide back and forth in this tunnel to reach the median nerve. The median nerve then allows you to open and close your fingers and apply pressure amongst other actions.
As you can imagine, the tunnel isn’t particularly large. There is barely enough room for all of your tendons and nerves to pass through and if anything takes up extra space in this tunnel, the nerve can get pinched which can result in various issues such as swelling, pain, tingling, numbness and even restricted movement in your fingers.
How Is It Diagnosed and Treated?
Anyone can get CTS. Millions of Americans suffer from this syndrome and children can also develop this condition although it is much rarer in children than adults.
It is also true that three times as many women get CTS than men.
You are at high risk of developing this condition if you are a computer operator, work in assembly-lines or if you are a hairstylist because the condition results from repeating the same movements over and over again over a long period. You are also at risk of getting this condition if you play a lot of video games, play musical instruments or if you play racquet sports like tennis. Gymnasts are especially at high risk of getting CTS.
All of these sports or career paths involve moving your hands and fingers a lot. All of this movement in the tunnel causes the tunnel to swell up and become inflamed.
The nerve and even tendons can then become pinched.
CTS usually start with a tingling in your palm or fingers. This tingling feeling feels much like that tingling feeling you usually experience when your hand falls asleep.
CTS can be diagnosed by a doctor. It can be treated by wearing a brace or splint. This brace keeps your hand from bending and keeps the wrist straight so the tunnel can open to increase room. You will need to rest your wrist to allow the swelling to shrink. Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can help reduce the swelling. Your doctor may also advice certain exercises although rest is one of the best natural treatments for CTS.
If these treatments don’t work, surgery might be required to repair the damage. The surgical procedure is very quick and doesn’t require overnight hospital observation.
CTS usually don’t result in permanent injuries but it is always better to avoid getting this condition. CTS can have a huge impact on your gameplay and you can be forced to take time off from gaming while your armrests certainly aren’t much fun.
How do VR gamers get hurt?
Gaming can cause more damages than you might think. Today you can enjoy gaming on a variety of platforms.
VR gaming is becoming more and more popular because you get a much more realistic experience from playing VR compared to other devices. This is also the most physical gaming environment since you can move around with ease and enjoy a full-body gaming experience. Here is a quick look at the top risks you have when enjoying gaming;
Console games – Console game devices like Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation involve using a hand-held controller to play. The movements your hands make while playing console games puts you at a high risk of developing CTS. You also have a risk of developing bad posture or back problems depending on the type of chair you sit on while playing.
PC – Personal computer gamers sit in a chair at a desk and they use a keyboard and mouse for gameplay. As with all office workers, you have a huge risk of developing back pains and CTS from all the movements you perform on your keyboard.
VR – In Virtual Reality gaming, you wear a headset and goggles and use a hand-held controller for gameplay. You are encouraged to move while you play and much more than just your hands are used to execute gaming actions which reduce the strain on your hands.
VR gamers don’t run the high risk of developing CTS at all. In this type of gameplay, you walk around in a game room and you move your arms, hands, and legs in all different directions and positions. The only injury risks you possibly have is the risk of tripping and falling or hitting a wall while your hands are flaring out in all directions as you play.
How to Alleviate Carpal Tunnel When Playing Video Games
It is always best to avoid getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to begin with. This is however not the easiest of tasks if you are a dedicated gamer who loves to enjoy hours and hours of non-stop gaming. Here are a few tips to help you avoid getting CTS to begin with;
Create a cozy gaming environment – Your gaming area should be comfortable. The chair should be adjusted to suit your height and your monitor and keyboard or console should also be at a comfortable height.
Posture is key – Your elbows should be at your sides with wrists in front while you use the keyboard or controller for gameplay.
Avoid using a wrist pad – Wrist pads increase pressure on your tunnel which can increase your chances of getting this condition. Learn not to rest your wrists on a wrist pad or the table while you play.
Keep gaming tools close by – Your gaming gear such as keyboard, mouse or console – and snacks, of course – should be within arm’s reach to avoid sudden stretches.
Play VR – Virtual reality gaming doesn’t have the risks of other types of gaming and as such is the best way to avoid getting this condition.
If you are reading this article then the chances are pretty good that you are already suffering from CTS and might need some advice to help alleviate the pain while you play.
Here are a few good tips to help you out.
Limit gameplay – Gameplay sessions should be greatly restricted if you have this condition.
Your gameplay sessions should also be short with frequent breaks.
Stop playing – Most doctors will tell you to rest your hand. This means no game playing at all if you want to avoid surgery.
Medication – Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can help reduce the swelling and inflammation and will help reduce the pain.
Wear a brace – Wearing a brace is good for resting your wrist and for keeping your hand straight while you sleep.
Play VR instead – Switching over to VR gaming instead of playing console or PC gaming is the best way to enjoy gaming if you suffer from CTS. This form of gameplay doesn’t have the same effect on your tunnel and is a good alternative to help you get plenty of rest while your wrist heals.
We all love a good game but no one likes gaming when their fingers won’t move right or when your arm is aching when that nerve gets pinched. If you want to enjoy gaming all the time without the risk of getting CTS then it is best to either limit your gameplay or to switch over to a safer and much more vibrant type of gaming like VR.