5 Ways to Prevent and Heal Wrist Pain From Gaming & PC Work (and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)
Wrist pain from gaming and PC work can develop into Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Don't ignore it. (TLDR)
Here I was, playing Overwatch with my friend Lanius who is a medic at a hospital in Europe, when we started talking about common health problems gamers usually face. We found that there are a few of them, so we noted them down for research and decided to create a series of guides focused on preventing the most serious ones, so you guys can keep on gaming until you're 190 years old.
The most common and serious "gamer health issue" is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, developing from wrist overload and strain while gaming and PC work.
I'm sure you've said to yourself many times before - if you experienced it - the pain could be lived through, it'll be better tomorrow, it's just that your hands are overworked and need a break...but you need to finish that last round. You need to get that competitive rank higher, there's always one last boss that needs to be defeated.
I know what I'm talking about because wrist pain from gaming and PC work is the reason why I started talking with my medic friend about gamer diseases and health issues. One day my right hand just started hurting and I couldn't aim properly for a while - I told myself it's just overworked and it'll be better as soon as I get some sleep.
I should tell you that 70% of my day is spent working on a computer, 15% playing Overwatch and 10% I'm browsing through the Web on an iPad, so you get an accurate picture of how exactly I "rested" my wrist.
Fast forward 3 days and the pain didn't get better.
That's when I did some research and asked Lanius about it. Answer? If I didn't start taking these aches and pains in your hands and wrists seriously, I was very likely to develop CTS.
Symptoms and reasons why you should be scared of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are:
- tingling sensations
- feeling / sensory loss in fingers I-III (thumb, point and middle middle finger)
- thumb muscles weakness and atrophy
If I was already in a CTS level of development, I'd have some bad news to digest - the only treatment is surgery + injections and even with those go without a guarantee my hand would be 100% okay again. In truth, there is almost no possibility I could ever regain total functionality of my wrist if I developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
But there have been some good news, too! If you're feeling some wrist pain and not very keen on damaging your hands forever like me, you can kick off these prevention measures as I did.
1. Relax the grip and reduce the force with right hardware
There are two ways how gamers destroy their wrists with bad hardware. The first is wrong mouse usage and the second is wrong keyboard usage.
The problem with mouse is that when you have some old, almost-ready-to-disintegrate Windows 95 mouse, you're probably clinging to it like Donald Trump's hair to his scalp. Because if you weren't, you probably wouldn't hit shit with that piece of junk.
Or you're kinda nervous while playing and if the mouse doesn't fit to your hand perfectly, you're constantly gripping it tightly in short intervals, over and over, not even realizing it.
Or your mouse just doesn't fit into your hand at all and yet you're still playing with it, not realizing the damage you're doing to yourself.
My problem was that I was a wrist aimer. I didn't use my whole arm for aiming and that combined with my all-day work with keyboard and mouse almost destroyed my wrist.
The solution is to play with an ergonomic gaming mouse that has been designed for long gaming sessions, like Zowie EC ergonomic series or Razer Deathadder Chroma. Almost a half of world's professional players use ergonomic mice like this because their hands and wrists are their daily bread. The fact your aim will probably get better is just an icing on the cake.
The same applies to keyboards. If you're using an old, silicone-membrane keyboard, you need to apply much more pressure and force to key presses, which - during long periods of gaming - hurts your joints, fingers and hands. I'm sure you remember the moments when you thought "Damn, why does my middle finger hurt for no reason?". It's the W key, dude.
Solution - go for a affordable mechanical gaming keyboard, like Redragon K552 instead.
2. Take breaks and perform wrist exercises
No, you're not weird if you do these exercises. You know who's wierd? The guy who can't lift a bottle / can of beer or masturbate because he destroyed his wrist by not heeding advice of very smart websites and people who write them (yes, that would be me) + doctors and physiotherapists. So take those breaks and do those exercise, because in the other case the only thing that's breaking is your stupid wrist.
How many breaks in how many intervals I hear you ask?
Every hour take 5 - 10 minutes. That's nothing, right? So don't forget about it and set a reminder for example. But only if you want to keep your gaming habits or the dream of being a professional gamer one day. Ignore them breaks for all I care, less competition for me, hahaha!
But seriously. Take them. This isn't a McDonald's "CAREFUL THE COFFEE IS HOT" kind of warning.
On to exercises! I'm not a physiotherapist, I'm just a gamer with a knack for good advice, so I'll advise you to watch this video of Dr. Levi who will (in a really sexy voice, even for us, heterosexuals) explain how to do the best of them to make your wrists and hands damage free, how to keep your esport carreer and raise your APM. I'm pretty sure they just told him to say it and he doesn't have a clue what does it even mean, just look at his face at 1:07. :D
But, these exercises really helped me when I combined them with soaking my wrist in a warm water for a minute. It even felt really good.
3. Watch your form and improve your posture
It goes without saying that if you sit like a sedated monkey with a bad ass-rash on a palm tree, you're gonna hurt yourself eventually and a wrist pain will be the last of your problems. For example, if you sit much lower than you should, your wrists will be bent at weird shapes they haven't been designed for.
This also applies to sitting much higher, too far to the right, too far to the left and so on. Here are pointers for correct posture.
How to keep a correct posture while gaming or working on a PC
- Knees at 90 degrees
- Back at 90-135 degrees
- Vary the angle of your back and legs or take micro breaks to reduce pain
- Use posture correcting cushions (check with a professional to determine which one is right for you)
- Screen Height: Sitting up and looking straight ahead should put your eyes level with the top third of your screen.
- Neck: Crown of the head should be directly above spine/sacrum
- Arms, Shoulders, rest on desk or arm rests. Avoid hovering or putting your mouse/keyboard at the edge of the desk unless you have significant musculature from similar activities (like extensive piano practice). Even so, resting the arms on the desk will result in longer sessions with less fatigue.
If you're not able to keep a correct form and posture due to bad gaming desk or a chair, investing in one can solve your problems nice and easy. Here is one insane gaming chair and a gaming desk currently very popular (more than 3,800 sales) on Amazon.
4. Keep your hands warm
You are more likely do develop pain and stiffness in a cold environment. I know what I'm talking about - I had to cut off fingers from my old textile gloves so I could keep playing Overwatch in my cold room and no, I'm not living in Sweden nor Russia. The thing is, if your hands are cold, you won't be able to aim and use your mouse precisely!
I currently wear this when I don't wear compression glove on my right hand - when I'm playing Overwatch for example.
There are 4 options for you as I see it:
- Go into the bathroom and bathe your hands in warm water every hour, as Dr. Levi recommends (time-consuming and annoying, but feels very nice when you get used to it)
- Buy some thin, fingerless gloves (works when I'm not using compression gloves)
- Get specialized, copper-infused compression gloves for healing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Arthritis, Tendonitis etc etc etc (worked for hundreds of people apparently)
- Sit on your hands every 10 minutes maybe with a little fart for good measure and a little bit of luck (haven't tried yet, let me know)
Well, that's it from Dr. Pepso and his medical aide Dr. Lanius (thank you). We'll be back with another medical article aimed for gamers soon, so please follow me on Twitter or sign up for the newsletter, because you don't want to miss it. Missing it could be disastrous! The planet might explode and donuts could rain from the sky! That last one sounds good. If you have any questions, you know where to find me.
*waves, because he doesn't have wrist pain anymore
5 - BONUS: Equipment and supplements that should help you
If you don't see anything here, you're using an Ad blocker. Pause it please!