So, you have pain and numbness in your hands or wrists. Or you’re arming yourself with the knowledge to keep yourself healthy as an esports athlete. At least that is why I’m assuming you’ve stumbled upon my article. Carpal tunnel syndrome is no joke. It has even ended professional esports players’ careers.
Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome is about reducing the compression of the Median nerve. Using padded wrist support, taking breaks, performing a warm-up, correcting posture, performing “prehab” exercise, and wearing a brace are all options.
Before diving into details regarding preventative measures, we must first understand what carpal tunnel syndrome is and how it comes about.
Table of Contents
- What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- Can Playing Video Games Give You Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- How Do You Know If You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- Can You Get Carpal Tunnel From Console Gaming?
- How To Prevent Carpal Tunnel While Gaming
- Stretches And Exercises To Prevent Carpal Tunnel
- Summary Box
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
One of the most common neurological conditions is carpal tunnel syndrome . The carpal tunnel is a protective “tube” that runs through the wrist into the hands. Its purpose is to protect the Median nerve and the nine tendons which control the thumb and first four fingers .
This Median nerve runs through the entire arm providing electrical impulses to muscles through the front of the forearm (when palms are facing forward) which signals the movement of the hands and fingers.
Specifically, the motion of turning the hand from facing up to down (pronation) and bending your hand towards your forearm on your palm side (wrist flexion). It also allows for flexion of the fingers (fingers moving towards the palm).
Can Playing Video Games Give You Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Esports and gaming athletes are well known for developing repetitive stress injuries. Especially carpal tunnel syndrome. Amateur players only average approximately 50 actions per minute and may be at a reduced risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Professional players on the other hand will average 500-600 actions per minute which are often sustained over hours . At the collegiate level in the USA, wrist and hand pain were reported as 36% and 32% of injury complaints respectively.
These actions occur with the palms facing down (pronated position) which is the movement the Median nerve facilitates. Working or gaming in this manner has been identified as a major cause of repetitive stress injuries .
Just 30-60 minutes of keyboard use is enough to start building pressure around the Median nerve . Further, there is a nearly significant correlation between distance traveled by the mouse and a burning sensation in the hands and wrist .
Meaning the further the mouse travels during gameplay, the more likely you are of developing a burning sensation (a symptom of carpal tunnel) in your hands and wrist.
As distance traveled by the mouse increases, player performance decreases so playing long periods of time may actually reduce your gaming performance .
For those that need to use a low mouse sensitivity, you are at a higher risk of developing these symptoms due to having to move the mouse further with each movement increasing travel area.
Carpel tunnel syndrome is a very real condition within the esports world.
How Do You Know If You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
If you feel you have any of these symptoms, don’t diagnose yourself. Make sure to see a physiotherapist or other health professional to develop a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Typical symptoms that occur with carpal tunnel syndrome are burning, numbness, pain, electric shock-like sensations, or tingling down the arm and hand .
Those with very severe carpal tunnel syndrome may have trouble sleeping, pain that travels from the thumb to the shoulder, weakness, loss of hand coordination, loss of feeling in the hand, and reduced fine motor skills such as subtle mouse movements .
Can You Get Carpal Tunnel From Console Gaming?
It is much less likely to develop carpal tunnel from console gaming. With the wrists generally neutral and not resting on a desk, there is little to no compression on the Median nerve. Further, because the wrist doesn’t make so many mini movements, hypertrophy of the tendons is limited.
That doesn’t mean console gaming is free of repetitive stress injury. “Nintendo thumb” is a real thing. It just means for those that have suffered from carpal tunnel previously, you may benefit from switching to become a console gamer to relieve your hands and wrists.
How To Prevent Carpal Tunnel While Gaming
Luckily there are some preventative measures that you can take to reduce your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome while gaming.
Padded Wrist Support
When using a mouse and keyboard, having padded support for your wrist is an easy intervention. The pad simply reduces the compression on the nerve.
Many mouse pads come with a pad for the wrist while keyboard pads are a cheap add-on. You can get very cheap mouse and keyboard pads here for those needing an add-on to their current keyboard and house.
Taking Regular Breaks
It’s generally recommended to take a break every hour or so when gaming. However, this isn’t always possible when long matches are being played.
However, after completing a long match, standing up, having a stretch, and walking around will give your hands a wrist a break.
Perform A Hand and Wrist Warm-Up
It has been recommended to begin your gaming session with a 3–5-minute warm-up. This can be a combination of stretches and other dynamic exercises you will find further in this article.
Setting up your peripherals so that you place less strain on your hands and wrists is a long-term strategy to reduce your risk of injury. While not always feasible, an ideal setup would be like the one pictured above.
A negative slope of the keyboard will level the wrist position to reduce the time spent stuck in extension. If this is not possible, then making sure you can replicate the arm and hand position with your desk is the next best thing.
It will mean that your monitor will have to be set up higher so you can keep a neutral spine position with your chest .
Wrist Brace While Sleeping
If you are experiencing mild symptoms, wearing a brace just at night while you sleep has been shown to reduce compression of the Median nerve and settle down symptoms .
Typically, this would be used for 4-6 weeks. It’s important that if you do decide to brace your wrist while you sleep, you alter your normal daily gaming habits so you don’t repetitively strain it and undo the pain-relieving intervention at night.
This carpal tunnel wrist brace is dirt cheap so it is worth having around the house in case you start to develop some symptoms.
Wrist Bracing While Gaming
This is another bracing strategy that can be used while gaming. The above wrist brace mentioned while sleeping would not be suitable for gaming as it has hard support that would rest on your mouse pad or even your mouse.
This should only be used to relieve symptoms and should not be used as an “all the time” strategy.
A wrist brace like this won’t interfere with gripping your mouse.
Some of these strategies to prevent carpal tunnel are temporary or used only to relieve symptoms. Staying in a brace most of the day and night is a recipe for developing more problems than just carpal tunnel.
As the saying goes, “movement is medicine.” Immobilizing the wrist will weaken it over time which can lead to various muscle and tendon sprains and strains.
That is why we must use movement as a preventative measure.
Stretches And Exercises To Prevent Carpal Tunnel
These “sliders” and “tensioners” for the Median nerve are the most common form of therapeutic exercise for carpal tunnel rehabilitation which can be used as a preventative measure .
They aim to improve grip strength, functional performance, and reduce any symptoms related to carpal tunnel.
Hand Nerve Glides
Tensioning and Sliding Nerve Mobilization Techniques
Trigger Point Therapy or Myofascial Release
Simply loosening the tissue around the forearm and upper arm has been shown to reduce symptoms and can be something to also use as a preventative measure.
- The carpal tunnel protects the Median nerve that sends signals to muscles in the forearm to move the hand and fingers.
- It is caused by compression and pressure on the Median nerve reducing hand function.
- Esports athletes are highly susceptible to repetitive stress injury carpal tunnel due to the large number of movements they make with the mouse in a pronated position with the wrist resting on a hard surface.
- Console gamers may not be at as high of risk compared to PC gamers.
- Performing regular preventative exercise is an easy way of potentially preventing carpal tunnel symptoms.
- Bracing should be a last resort as immobilizing the joint will make it weaker in the long term.
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