- Many gamers spend several hours a day practicing or playing games
- The repetitive movements used while gaming can lead to gamer’s thumb
- This painful condition is technically known as De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
- Exercises can treat gamer’s thumb and there are many tools for quick, temporary pain relief
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Online gaming isn’t just a popular hobby – professional gamers can make up to $10 million at each tournament. With millions of spectators watching the tournaments online, in-person at mega venues like Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center, and on major TV stations such as ESPN3 or the Big Ten Network, there’s a lot of time and money put into this newer sport. Esports might even be added as a medal event at the 2024 Olympic games1.
If other serious athletes spend their lives practicing and preparing for huge events like these, then it makes sense that gamers do too. Many top gamers practice 12 to 15 hours a day. Like other sports, esports can cause a variety of injuries and aches. Most gaming pain is caused by the repetitive motions needed for each game, resulting in hand and wrist injuries. Other pain can be caused by bad gaming posture from sitting for long periods of time.
The most common problem gamers struggle with include:
- Gamer’s Thumb
- Repetitive Strain Injuries (wrist tendinopathy and carpal tunnel)
- Back Pain
What is Gamer’s Thumb?
Gamer’s thumb is technically called De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, but it has many nicknames including Nintendo Thumb, Playstation Thumb, WASD Wrist, and Nintendonitis. This injury occurs from repetitive stress that causes inflammation and irritation of the tendons and the sheath around them.
Symptoms of gaming pain include:
- Pain and/or swelling at the base of the thumb
- Difficulty grasping or pinching
- Pain when turning or flexing the wrist
- Pain when making a fist
4 Treatment Exercises
Exercise is the best treatment for tendon injuries like Gamer’s thumb, everything else only offers temporary pain relief. Stretching and working out the wrist and thumb can help strengthen muscles and prevent hand injuries from gaming.
Try the exercises below to make sure the tendon doesn’t weaken and continue to create a cycle of pain. With the help of a dumbell and TheraBand Resistance Tubing, any gamer can get back to doing what they love.
1. Eccentric Wrist Flexion with Finger Curl
For wrist pain from gaming, this exercise is ideal for stretching and strengthening the wrist
- Use a moderately heavy weight so it’s possible to do multiple repetitions to build endurance
- Start by holding the weight with your palm up
- Curl your wrist toward the ceiling
- Slowly uncurl the wrist, bringing it down toward the ground
- Uncurl your fingers at the end of the exercise to target deep forearm muscles
- Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions each
2. Eccentric Wrist Extension
- Begin by holding the weight with your palm facing down
- Curl your wrist up toward the ceiling
- Uncurl the wrist toward the floor
- Unlike the last exercise, do not uncurl your fingers
- Repeat for three sets of 15 repetitions each
3. Radial Deviation Strengthening
This is another stretching exercise that will come in handy during long tournaments.
- Start by extending your arm in front of your body
- Hold the weight with your palm facing inward
- If extra support is needed, balance your forearm on a table with the wrist hanging over the edge
- Keep your forearm steady while focusing on just moving the wrist
- Bend wrist up toward the ceiling and feel the stretch at the base of the thumb
- Lower wrist back to the starting position
- Repeat for two sets of ten repetitions each
4. Resisted Ulnar Deviation
The goal of this exercise is to improve gamer’s thumb using Resistance Tubing.
- Sit on a chair with feet hip distance apart
- Hold one end of the tubing in your right hand
- While keeping your palm facing the floor, lean forward so your right elbow rests on your right thigh and your forearm drops between your knees
- Step on the other end of the tubing with your left foot
- Using your right hand, slowly bend your wrist up and away from your left knee
- Feel the stretch at the back and inside of your hand
- Repeat ten times
- Switch to your left hand and repeat the exercise
Splints & Braces
Although a splint and wrist brace for thumb pain are helpful for short term relief, exercise should be considered the primary intervention to keep your hands healthy. Learn about current guidelines on rest from Matt Hwu and Caitlin McGee, physical therapists at 1-HP and avid gamers, who address this topic in an article on rest and recovery.
Brace During Rest
Ease the pain of Gamer’s Thumb by avoiding further tendon aggravation. The UTS Universal Thumb Support can be worn when not playing to completely immobilize the thumb.
If you’re suffering from joint pain from video games, THERABAND Kinesiology Tape can be used as an alternative to braces. Taping can provide muscle and joint support without immobilizing or limiting range of motion. Learn more about how taping can help gamer hands with the gamers and physical therapists at 1-HP.
Fast Pain Relief
Decrease swelling and inflammation by icing your thumb and hand. These Instant Hot/Cold Packs go above and beyond because they activate with one squeeze and don’t need to be frozen first. Take one to tournaments for a convenient thumb ice pack during breaks between games.
Or just carry around a 3 ounce tube of Biofreeze for instant cooling relief. Patients preferred Biofreeze over ice ten to one in clinical studies, and the cooling sensation can last through the longest of gaming sessions.
Even the best athletes have to sit out of the sports they love when they are injured. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat the symptoms of gamer’s thumb to avoid injury and reduce the time spent away from playing!
Graham, B. A. (2017, August 09). ESports could be medal event at 2024 Olympics, Paris bid team says. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3pyvbCA
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