If you’re a gamer, your hands and wrists are your money makers, or at the very least, crucial for you to enjoy the sport you love. Like any sport, there are common problems associated with playing video games like gamer’s thumb, lower back pain, and repetitive strain injuries (RSI). While many people think they have carpal tunnel, most wrist pain in gaming is really a repetitive strain injury.
A wrist RSI nearly forced Hai Lam, a top League of Legends player for Cloud9, into retirement. DotA player, Fear, had to take a year off due to injury, but thanks to physical therapy, he was able to return and win The International 5 with Evil Geniuses, a team he still plays for now. Fortunately, you can get treatment and pain relief for repetitive strain injuries.
Causes of Wrist RSI
- Irritation and inflammation of the tendons in your wrist due to repetitive motions
- Specifically for esports competitors, it’s caused by hours of continuous gaming while performing the same hand motions repeatedly
- For PC gamers, RSI typically occurs in the wrist, while console gamers experience it more in their thumbs
- Pain that is worse during and after activity
- Local swelling
- Local joint stiffness
- Pain that slowly lingers for longer and longer periods of time
If ignored, RSI can cause progress into carpal tunnel syndrome and cause numbness.
Treatment for RSI
The best offense is always a good defense. Thus, the first line of defense is avoiding an injury completely. Make sure you play with your wrist in a neutral position and take breaks every hour. An alarm might be a helpful and easy reminder for you.
Exercise is Everything
The goal of these exercises is to reduce your pain by strengthening and stretching the muscles in your wrist and hand. Here are two exercises that can help your RSI:
Stress Ball Exercise
Strengthen your grip with a TheraBand Hand Exerciser. These strengtheners come in four different resistance levels, so you can track your progress as your strength increases.
- Hold the ball completely in your hand and slowly squeeze for two sets of ten repetitions each
- Then hold the ball using only your index finger and thumb, squeeze for another two sets of ten reps
- Finally, hold the ball with your last three fingers and gently squeeze for two sets of ten slow repetitions
Finger and Thumb Extension
This exercise strengthens the muscles in the back of your forearm. The TheraBand Hand Xtrainer comes in different resistances to fit your needs.
- Slowly spread your fingers then bring them back together
- Repeat for two sets of ten repetitions
“The more we build up your muscle [endurance] with these exercises, with the TheraBand Hand Xtrainer, the longer you can play without pain”. -Matt Hwu, physical therapist at 1-HP and avid gamer
Wear a Wrist Brace
Exercise should be your primary focus, but a brace can offer temporary relief. The Rolyan Teal D-Ring Wrist Brace is a great brace to wear when you aren’t gaming. It gives you unobstructed finger and thumb movement for other activities but keeps your wrist immobilized.
Wear the Rolyan Black D-Ring Wrist Brace at night to reduce median nerve pressure while sleeping and improve RSI and carpal tunnel symptoms. The brace keeps your wrist from being bent at an awkward angle and pressing on your nerve.
Fast Pain Relief for an RSI:
Using a foam roller can help bring pain relief. TheraBand Pro Foam Rollers are lightweight options ideal for relieving soreness. When using the roller, concentrate on the palm area, especially the edges of your hand, right below your thumb and pinky.
This wrap does the work of a compression bandage and an ice pack. It’s best for use when the pain is still recent. The CoolXChange can be wrapped around your wrist to relieve pain and inflammation for up to 2 hours. It’s self-adhesive and doesn’t require refrigeration so you can bring it along to tournaments.
Biofreeze uses menthol to block pain signals to the brain. You can use it for fast, cooling pain relief on your hands or wrists. Massage the gel into your hands, or use the roll-on version for a mess-free application.
Nothing should keep you from gaming, not even a repetitive strain injury. If you’re looking for more information on how to treat an RSI, check out this article by Matt Hwu, a physical therapist at 1-HP and a gamer. With prevention, rest, exercise, and pain relief, you can get back to the games you love.
Brian, Matt. (2015). One of eSports' biggest stars retires with repetitive strain injury. Retrieved from http://engt.co/2NzqhUn
theScore Staff. (2017). Fear returns to Evil Geniuses as support. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2C1gBgL
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