You’ve cleared your schedule, canceled social engagements, and deleted Tinder from your phone.
Why? Because after work this Friday, you’re gaming, all weekend.
Everything is going well, until mid-Saturday afternoon, you’re hit with an intense pain. Goddamnit, you’ve waited far too long for this game to finally come out—you can’t get a cramp now.
But you feel it: your fingers go numb, your wrist is throbbing. And you think to yourself, “Oh God, what if I have carpal tunnel? What if my doctor tells me that I have to stop playing video games? HOLY FUCK, what if this means I can never masturbate again?”
Look, Broseph, I’d freak the fuck out too at the thought of never being able to jerk it again, but seriously: calm down, slick. You (likely) don’t have carpal tunnel. What you do have, however, is a case of overuse.
It’s All in the Wrist
Firstly, the two most common conditions that contribute to wrist pain are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and tendonitis. Now, again, it’s likely that you don’t have carpal tunnel, so chill. But, since I’m here to give you some brain gains, it’s prudent to know that both CT and tendonitis have similar symptoms:
- Pain in the wrist/forearm
But the culprits of the two conditions are very different.
Carpal Tunnel happens when the medial nerve in your wrist is compressed or damaged. This can occur from prolonged flexing of the fingers. Tendonitis, on the other hand, is caused by the inflammation of the tendon. The most common form of tendonitis reported by doctors is tennis elbow. But the only tennis you play or have played in years was on Wii Sports.
How and Why Your Wrist as a Gamer Gets Tired
Look at the picture below.
When you hold a controller like this in your hand, or if you’re one of those “PC people” and use a mouse, your thumbs, and fingers are flexed. When you flex, you’re bringing two joints closer together. Like when you flex your bicep and your elbow joint comes closer to your shoulder joint. Speaking of flexing your bicep.
Real quick: go ahead and flex your bicep, and squeeze that fucker as hard as you can for ten seconds.
Do you feel the tension building in your arms and elbow joint? Good.
Holding your thumbs on the sticks with your fingers wrapped over the triggers puts your fingers in a slightly flexed position. Holding that flexed position for hours puts your thumbs, fingers, and wrists under a constant tension.
Remember the tension you felt flexing your bicep for ten seconds?
Of course, you’re not flexing your fingers as forcefully as your bicep. But now you understand a bit more about how keeping your hands and fingers in a flex position over long periods of time can cause strain on your joints, tendons, and muscles.
No one wants to stop their gaming because the act of holding your controller feels more challenging than Legendary Mode in Halo. So what can you do when you feel this pain beginning to creep up on you? Nothing. You’re totally screwed.
Alright, fine. My jokes suck, I’ll stop. When you feel your wrist beginning to ache, the best thing to do is set the controller down for a bit and use some of these stretches.
Stretch it Out, Bro
Rule number one: every hour, give yourself a break from gaming and flex and extend your fingers.
If you’re in a multiplayer game where you have time between matches or get up to take a bathroom break, this is a great time to ball your fingers up (flex) and then extend them.
Wrist stretches are something many gamers or even keyboard warriors are used to doing.
To do these, place your arm out straight with your hand flexed as if you were a traffic cop stopping traffic.
Grab your fingers with your opposite hand and gently pull them back towards your wrist until you feel a stretch in your wrist and forearm. Hold this for 30 seconds.
Massage your fingers and wrist.
For this stretch, keep your elbow bent and close to your rib cage, turn your hand until your palm is facing skyward.
With your opposite hand grab the thumb of the skyward facing palm and gently twist your thumb to the opposite facing wall.
Do this until you feel a nice stretch, but do not pull so hard that it causes unnecessary pain.
These are pretty self-explanatory.
In both clockwise and counterclockwise motions rotate your wrists in a circle. Perform 10 circles each direction per wrist.
Prevent Gaming Injuries
We often forget how important our hands and wrists are to our everyday daily activities.
Your wrists and hands are important for numerous activities:
- Grabbing items out of a cabinet
- Clutching a glass of water
- Bench pressing
Without proper care, repetitive motions can lead to long-term issues like Carpal Tunnel, tendonitis, or other hand ailments.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Implement these stretches and exercises into your gaming routine to stay at the top of your game. Perform these while you ride on the subway, sit on the toilet, walk your dog, or before you start gaming. I mean seriously, do you really want to risk not being able to pick up your controller to play the next big must-have game?