Hey, gamers! Press pause for a second. We need to have a talk about something that none of us really want to talk about: Carpal tunnel syndrome.
That’s right. The wrist thing.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) all comes down to one nerve in your wrist — the median nerve, which controls movement and feeling in your thumb and movement in every finger except your pinky. The median nerve runs the full length of the arm, but the part where it passes through the wrist is called the carpal tunnel. When you make repetitive motions with your fingers and wrist, the carpal tunnel can swell.
There’s a lot of buzz around carpal tunnel, especially for gamers, creative types, and workaholics who spend their workdays behind a computer desk studying spreadsheets. (Are our lives really so different?)
Now that you know what carpal tunnel is, here’s a quick walkthrough to help you prevent it.
Study the Art of the Grip
We’ve all been there: You’re deadlocked in a showdown with a dragon in the middle of a six-hour Skyrim session and you haven’t even touched your drink. It happens. We all get sucked in, especially if it’s a good game and we’re having a good time.
Between those action-packed moments, though, when the loading screen pops up or a cinematic takes control out of your hands, take a moment to study the art of the grip. Ease up on the controls a moment, relax your fingers, and do a few wrist exercises.
Remember, swelling in the carpal tunnel is a primary cause for CTS, so do yourself a favor and give your hands and wrists a chance to relax for a minute or two. Thumb through the menu, sort your inventory, or — if you’re feeling lucky — steer your character with one hand on the controller while you flex the other one.
Just don’t hold us responsible if the dragon punishes you for playing one-handed.
Master Your True Form
Whether you’re playing a fighter or rewatching episodes of your favorite anime, you might notice that the bad guy (and some of the good guys) don’t start the fight in their true form — but they usually finish it that way. It’s the same for you in the fight against carpal tunnel. Form — particularly posture — means a great deal when it comes to prevention.
Here’s a good guide on carpal tunnel prevention which includes tips for better posture. While it’s true that most carpal tunnel affects the wrist and fingers, sitting upright with your feet flat on the floor and keeping your monitor in front of you and at eye level are all techniques designed to improve your posture and prevent strain or injury.
Change your Tools
There is such a thing as having the right tool for the job. Link has a whole backpack full of them, and don’t get me started on the entire Diablo or Elder Scrolls franchises. How many tools does one hero need?
For gamers, our tools come down a keyboard, a mouse, and maybe a controller if you’re into consoles. That’s fantastic. If it’s a question of tools, it’s pretty easy to pick out an ergonomic upgrade to help combat CTS.
Gaming tech is designed with gamers in mind. Pick up an ergonomic gaming mouse and keyboard. Even better, find some mouse pads and keyboards with wrist wrests. Here’s a good article to guide you.
If you want an amazing experience, you can even take your gaming to the next level by elevating yourself. Get a standing desk and get yourself out of a chair. Remember, your gaming heroes are exploring the depths of the universe or, at the very least, wandering across an ancient land on their quest. Do yourself a favor and join them.
Break it Down
Despite everything we’ve touched on today, there’s one thing you can do that’s even better than all the rest: Take a break.
It’s hard to step away from the keyboard when you’re about to finish a quest or beat a boss, but it’s worth it. Stop for a refresher. Step outside for a breath of fresh air. Anything you can do to clear your mind and reset your wrists for the next round of gaming.
Most importantly, if you feel any kind of tingling sensation or a weakness of grip while you’re gaming, you should definitely give yourself time to recover and do a few exercises in the process.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel
One last thing you should know about CTS: There’s no one thing you can do to prevent it.
It’s a combination of things, from exercise to breaks, that really stop it. So don’t be shy. Vary your exercises and your approach to preventing carpal tunnel. Your body (and your wrist) will thank you for it.