Chances are you know a Gamer! Chances are…. you are one! And, no matter their age, a video game lover can and may experience carpal tunnel syndrome. What is exactly is carpal tunnel and how can the pinched nerve problem be prevented for those who love video games?
What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel?
On the palm side of the hand, there is a narrow passageway called the carpal tunnel. It’s made up of bones and ligaments. When the median nerve is pinched, the hand and arm may feel numb, tingle, or become weak. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by the anatomy of the wrist, by health problems, or by doing the same hand movements over and over. Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms usually start gradually and can get worse over time, these symptoms include:
- Tingling or feeling numb – You might feel tingling and numbness in your hands or fingers. Most of the time, it affects the thumb, index, middle, or ring finger, but not the little finger. The feeling may start at the wrist and move up the arm. These symptoms often happen when you are driving, talking on the phone, or reading a newspaper and they can also wake you up from sleep. Many people try to feel better by “shaking out” their hands, but over time, you might feel numb all the time
- Weakness – You might feel weak in your hands and drop things. This could be because the median nerve is making the hand numb or because the muscles that allow the thumb to pinch are weak
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for Gamers?
Carpal tunnel may happen for gamers due to gripping their controller for long periods of time with their hands gripping and their wrists stretched out. This is a common way to play both console and computer games, as well as using the computer in general. There are a few groups of people who are more likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome, and some risk factors include:
- Gender – Carpal tunnel syndrome affects women more often than men, this may be due to the passage through the carpal tunnel being more narrow in women than in men, which makes it more likely that the median nerve will be pinched
- Anatomy – Even though women tend to have smaller carpal tunnels than men, this can be a risk factor for both sexes. Acute injuries and arthritis can also make the carpal tunnel smaller and more likely to put pressure on the median nerve
- Medical Conditions – Risk factors include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, menopause, thyroid problems, kidney failure, and lymphedema
- Pregnancy and Fluid Retention – Fluid retention, or buildup, can cause pressure inside your body, which can irritate or compress your median nerve, which can create carpal tunnel syndrome worse or make an existing condition worse
How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for Gamers
Taking a break every hour is the best way to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and other injuries from video games. Get up and take a short walk around the room. Set an alarm or timer on your phone to make sure you get up regularly. Many gamers will take about 30 seconds, shake their hands, and then go right back to playing, and this may not be good enough. The longer time you spend sitting puts stress on the tendons that run from your back to your hands. Give up a few minutes and take a break so you can avoid problems and injury.
Another helpful tactic is to make sure the set up of your computer or gaming system is ergonomically correct. Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so that they fit the people who use them. If you use a keyboard, buy one that is made to be used for long periods of time. Make sure your wrists are higher than your fingers when using it. Think about setting up your gaming console so you can stand up. Use controls that are made to be used long lengths of time.
How Can Carpal Tunnel be Treated?
If you’re a gamer, you may find that it’s very important to get back to your games, however, if you experience carpal tunnel syndrome, it should be addressed as soon as possible after the first signs appear. No sense in facing pain, numbness or even surgery. Not to mention having to take time off from your enjoyment! You can try simple things that may help, for instance:
- Take more breaks to give your hands a rest
- Stay away from things that make your symptoms worse
- To reduce swelling, use cold packs
If you’ve had mild to moderate symptoms that come and go, a wrist splint and over-the-counter pain relievers may help. If your hands are going numb, you may need to see a hand specialist.
Here are some additional suggestions to help you in your at-home care of this condition, which may provide temporary symptom relief:
- Take short, frequent breaks from repetitive activities involving the use of the hands, such as computer use
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Rotate your wrists and stretch your palms and fingers
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, a name brand of this medication is Advil, or take naproxen sodium, such as Aleve or other brands
- Wear a snug, but not tight, wrist splint at night. You can find these at most drugstores or pharmacies
- Avoid sleeping on your hands
If your symptoms get worse or persist for a long time, it’s time to see an orthopedic hand doctor about what steps you can take next. Contact us at 574-264-0791 or schedule online to see one of our specialists.
We look forward to seeing you at one of our convenient locations, where we serve patients from Michiana (Michigan and Indiana,) including Niles, Michigan, New Carlisle, South Bend, Mishawaka, Osceola, Elkhart, Middlebury, Nappanee, Goshen, Indiana, LaGrange County, Indiana and more! Or call (574) 264-0791 for more information.
This blog post is not intended to provide personal medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, or treatment to you or to any other individual. It is information for educational purposes only. You should not use this information in place of a consultation or the advice of a healthcare provider.