Video gaming injuries are quite common. In fact, one study reports that 39% of people who identify as “gamers” experience pain as a direct result of their hobby. And one of the most common types of pain they feel is hand pain.
This makes sense, of course. Gamers spend hours a day gripping a controller, bending their wrist and thumbs in a way that may not be healthy for the body. All these activities can lead to repetitive strain injuries, or injuries caused by putting bones or muscles under light but repetitive stress for long periods of time.
Luckily, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled this guide of hand stretches for gamers. Performing these stretches before, during and after you sit down to play may help you avoid injury.
What types of hand injuries affect gamers?
Before we get into our recommended hand stretches, let’s talk about some of the injuries that commonly affect gamers:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome — Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is pinched. It’s called “carpal tunnel syndrome” because the median nerve runs through the carpal tunnel, a small tunnel made of bones and soft tissue in the wrist. Gaming, typing and other repetitive motions can cause the sides of the carpal tunnel to press up against the nerve, which causes pain in the wrist that can radiate to other parts of the hand and arm.
- De Quervains’s tenosynovitis — De Quervains’s tenosynovitis is an inflammation of the sheath that surrounds the tendons in the hand. It is also known as De Quervain’s syndrome. The condition is caused by repetitive movements of the thumb and fingers, such as those involved in gripping a video game controller. Symptoms include pain and tenderness at the base of the thumb, pain when moving your thumb toward your palm, and pain when you grip something with your hand.
- Fractures and strains — Fractures and strains tend to affect gamers who use video game systems that require physical activity, such as Nintendo Wii. These injuries can occur when a player falls over.
Hand stretches for gamers
Here are five stretches that can help to prevent gaming-related injuries:
- Prayer position stretches — Keeping your elbows pointing outward, press your palms and fingers together with your fingers pointing toward the floor. Raise your wrists until you feel stretching throughout your arms. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Reverse prayer position stretches — Keeping your elbows pointing outward, press the backs of your hands together with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Lower your hands until you feel stretching throughout your arms. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Wrist joint distractions — Relax your hands in front of you with your palms facing toward your body. Use one hand to grab your other wrist and gently pull on it until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds and repeat on the other wrist.
- Finger and thumb joint distractions — Relax your hands in front of you with your palms facing toward your body. Use one hand to grab the index finger on your other hand and gently pull on it until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds. Repeat on each of your other fingers and on the other wrist.
- Supine flexor stretches — How one arm straight out with your elbow straight and your palm facing upward. Use your other hand to pull your wrist down toward the floor, stretching the underside of your forearm. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other arm.
Does physical therapy help with gaming injuries?
While the action of your video game happens on a screen, your physical body is still involved, and playing video games can cause injury. Physical therapy not only helps gamers recover from hand injuries, but it can also help you to avoid injuries.
If you’re a hardcore gamer, you should consider it. Your physical therapist will help you strengthen your hand muscles and improve their flexibility so you’re better able to maneuver your controller. They will also coach you on how to move in a way that helps you to avoid repetitive strain injuries.
Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for hand pain
At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address gaming-related injuries.
Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.
Come find a physical therapist who can help you treat and avoid gaming injuries and pain.