Do you experience pain or discomfort when holding your Nintendo Switch for a long time? You might have early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Disclaimer: I’m not a Doctor. Just a gamer like you with lived experience. Please always seek medical advice before attempting any tips I suggest in this article.
I’ve been there – the trips to a physical therapist, wearing a wrist splint, the hours of googling what the heck is wrong with me!
It’s easy to say don’t worry I know, but when your wrists stop functioning and you’re incapable of even lifting a Joy-con without pain something has to change.
What is Carpal Tunnel and What Causes it?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition that affects the hands, wrists, and arms.
The discomfort you’re feeling is caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist and can lead to numbness, tingling, and pain.
When I first started to realize something was wrong I ignored it.
It was the height of lockdown in 2020 and I was addicted to Animal Crossing New Horizons.
I thought it was just your run-of-the-mill pins and needles which would go away in a few minutes or so. Minutes turned into hours, hours into days, days to weeks.
I continued to play my favorite cozy game. In fact, I sunk over 1000 hours into it that year!
The tingling became a permanent problem but I didn’t seek help. That’s when I began experiencing a numb feeling in my fingers. I wasn’t aware at the time but, gaming can be a contributing factor to carpal tunnel syndrome due to repeated use of gaming controllers or keyboards over long periods of time.
I want to help you avoid getting carpal tunnel syndrome altogether if possible. In this article, we will look at the steps you can take to prevent it from occurring in your own life.
How Video Games Can Lead to Wrist Pain & Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Did you know even casual gamers can get wrist pain?
The Nintendo Switch has been notorious for complaints about its players suffering from carpal tunnel.
So many players have taken to Reddit to complain about their experiences when playing games using the Joy-cons that there is even a disclaimer on Nintendo’s website reminding people to rest if they think they may have onset of carpal tunnel symptoms.
Prolonged gaming sessions using any controller aren’t doing your wrists any favors.
I personally used to play on the standard Switch console laying in bed, my arms up 90 degrees in the air so I could see the screen laying down.
Having my arms extended like this was a bad idea.
Not only did I risk dropping my Switch on my face (yes, that did happen, it hurt A LOT), but the lack of blood flow after 1-2 hours of playing like this was bound to have a negative effect on my hands.
You factor in the number of nights I spent doing this before bed and then the manual labor I had to undertake at work the next day and well, let’s just say I’m the idiot who should have known better.
Additionally, cozy gamers are known to sit slumped on sofas and on floors resulting in poor posture while gaming. This all adds to the worsening effects of carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Can You Do To Reduce Carpal Tunnel When Gaming?
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce or even, prevent carpal tunnel when gaming.
This article will discuss how to avoid carpal tunnel from gaming, what preventative measures you can take, and various wrist stretches for gamers.
To avoid these issues, it is important to take breaks during long gaming sessions, not play laying down and practice good posture while playing.
5 Essential Tips to Help You Reduce and Avoid Wrist Pain from Gaming
- ergonomic setup: table + chair
- Invest in a large enough desk that allows you to use one of those extended mouse pads.
- Use a vertical mouse if you are a pc gamer or buy an ergonomic case for your Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck that gives a more natural hand position when gaming.
- Take frequent breaks, even if for a couple of minutes. If you feel any part of your arm or hand cramping up, you’ve already been at it too long. There are a lot of stretching exercises posted by doctors and therapists available online. Try some specifically meant for desk-bound people and gamers.
- Don’t play intense games that require lots of wrist motions.
What Are the Best Equipment & Techniques for Gamers to Prevent Wrist Pain?
The best way I avoid hand pain when playing computer games over long periods of time is to use the Pomodoro Technique.
Pomodoro is Italian for tomato but honestly, I have no idea where this technique got its name, and for the sake of speed I haven’t bothered to research it. You can read more here if you wish.
Put simply, you set a timer for 25 minutes, during this time you can focus on your gameplay.
When the timer sounds you go take a 5 minute break – move your body, and drink some water, but avoid using your hands too much during the resting period.
After you’ve completed 4 pomodoros you can either take a much longer break, say 30 minutes, or end your gaming session.
Gaming Chairs are specifically designed to support pc gamers by correcting bad posture and preventing wrist injuries… if you’ve ever had a gaming chair you know how hard it is to slouch. Unlike many office chairs which are not suitable for gamers, a gaming chair is a good idea because it has armrests that support your arms.
My first chair was a popular IKEA chair that had no support, no armrests and no adjustable height.
I would ache for days after my Twitch Streams. So I can’t stress enough the importance of a supportive video gaming chair!
It’s not just your PC gamers that are at risk, console gamers – those who play on Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch – are still at risk of carpal tunnel.
Not just wrist injuries though, prolonged grip on a gaming console without proper posture can cause tennis elbow.
5 Essential Tips to Prevent Injuries from Console Gaming
- Take frequent breaks – use the Pomodoro Technique I mentioned earlier
- Relieve Stress by squeezing a sensory stress ball 20-30 times whenever there is a loading screen or you’re waiting in a gaming lobby. This will increase your muscle strength and help stop tennis elbow or carpal tunnel.
- Move your body. Stand up whenever you can to keep the blood flowing and relieve stress from slouching if you’ve been sitting on the sofa too long.
- Look up. If you’re a console gamer or mobile phone gamer then you’ll be familiar with that pain in your neck that you get after looking down for a long period of time. Try to touch your shoulder with your ear on each side 5-10 times, and turn your head side to side, without moving your shoulders.
- Remember 90 degrees from your waist. If your arms aren’t at 90-degree angles (not up in the air from your bed as I did!) when playing then you’re at risk of gamer wrist. Your controller or screen doesn’t need to be touching your nose okay?
Take proper care of your body and you’ll avoid back pain, shoulder pain, and especially, arm and wrist conditions in the future.