Trigger Finger Hurting From Too Much Gaming? How to Prevent Video Gamer’s Thumb
At least 150 million people play video games in the US. Seeing as the Earth’s population is 7 billion, that’s pretty impressive.
Video games are fun, and they even have some mental benefitsâ€”like an increased attention span. For a while, researchers were worried that violent games would lead to more outbursts in the kids that play them, but most evidence has shown that not to be true.
Howeverâ€”nothing’s perfect, and video games are no exception. Most video games are played from a sitting position, and sitting is bad for your health.
Along with that, you can develop hand stress injuries (like gamer’s thumb), eye strain, and alignment issues from staying in the same position too long.
We don’t want you to stop gaming. We simply want to give you the evidence for why you need to game safer and then educate you on the ways to do so.
Ready to “press” play on these strategies? Read below.
What Are Video Game Injuries?
Before we go into each one in detail, let’s talk about what kind of gaming injuries often occur.
We see a lot of people with “gamer’s thumb,” which is essentially carpal tunnel. It’s the same issue that people who type and use a mouse a lot get from work.
You can feel that carpal tunnel in your thumb or trigger finger, which will often radiate pain to the rest of your hand.
Then there are eye strain injuries, which can hurt your vision over time.
Finally, some researchers say that “sitting is the new smoking,” i.e., it can kill you. Make sure you’re getting up and walking around, taking breaks from being sedentary.
Gamer’s Thumb: What is it?
Gamer’s thumb or trigger finger problems (doesn’t have to be your thumb) is a repetitive strain injury. It comes from making the same motion over and over, which strains one muscleâ€”hence the medical name.
People experience symptoms differently. It depends on what kind of games you’re playing and how you hold your device.
For example, PC gamers are more likely to feel wrist strain than thumb strain, while the opposite is true for console gamers.
Either way, you may feel localized pain in your thumb or a finger you use to press buttons often. The base of the thumb can swell up, or it could just hurt when you move.
There are also some auditory symptoms, which means you may hear a popping sensation when making basic moves. You’ll feel a pop tooâ€”usually before you can hear it.
Wrist pain radiates, which means the pain can move around the hand and away from the source. It’s common for people with wrist issues to feel pain through the top of their hand and up their arm.
None of these start out as extreme pain. You may notice that your finger/hand/wrist feels weird. Some people say that it feels better when they put pressure on it, at first.
If you notice a change in the way your body feels during activities you do often, take note. It could be an injury in the making.
Treating Repetitive Stress Injuries
There are a few ways you can treat repetitive stress injuries, but you can also prevent them. Prevention is always preferred to treatment, so if you’re just starting to feel these issues, there may be hope.
If you play shooting games or shoot in real life with Timney Trigger accessories, whole hand strengthening is important.
There is something called “theraputty” that builds wrist and finger strength. It can make your muscles stronger, so they’re not as susceptible to strain injuries.
Finally, you should make sure that your wrist or fingers (depending on the game you play) are at the same height as your wrist. You can find wrist supports for PCs on any online site.
Eye Strain Injuries
A lot of modern life goes against what our bodies are made for. If you think about it, screens are a very new invention. People aren’t used to staring into a source of light, which is exactly what screens are.
Our bodies haven’t adapted to fit this new lifestyle yetâ€”and when they don’t adapt, we get symptoms.
If you find yourself getting headaches when you play games a lot, it could be from eye strain. Thankfully, this is rather easy to fix.
The first thing you want to do is integrate the 20/20/20 rule. Every twenty minutes look about 20 feet away (hopefully outside), for about twenty seconds.
This helps your eyes “reset,” if you will, and can really reduce your headaches.
At first, you may have to set a little timer for yourself, or maybe you look away every time something specific happens in the game.
Find a way to work this into your game playing so that it works for you and you’ll actually do it.
This sounds silly, but if your eyes feel dry when you’re playing games, it’s because you’re not blinking enough. Humans should blink about 18 times a minute, but we don’t blink as much when we’re staring at screens.
We don’t know how to remind you to blink more, but maybe close your eyes while you’re waiting for your game to save or something like that.
Brighten the Room
Finally, we know that your graphics on your screen are important to you, but they’re not as important as your vision. If you typically play in a dark room, turn some lights on please.
Your eyes are not made for staring at screens, but they’re especially not made for staring at bright lights in the dark. You can look into computer backlighting, which shouldn’t put any glare on your graphics.
If anything, you can get a blue light filter for your screen, which will help your eyes but also your sleep.
Sitting is Deadly?
We already know there’s an obesity problem in the United States. It’s very complex sociologically, having to do with food availability and income levels.
But it also comes from being sedentary, or not getting enough up and down motion in your daily routine. We’re not talking about exercising for an hour a day. We’re talking about the times you move from a sitting position to standing.
Think of your activity as bursts, which you want to scatter around the day as much as possible. The more bursts of activity, the less sitting will impact your health.
How Does Sitting Impact Health?
If you’re someone that struggles with their body size, sitting isn’t helping. Sitting keeps you from burning calories doing random things, like walking around the house or going up and down stairs.
The average office worker sits 15 hours a day. That includes sleeping time and whatever they do at home.
It reduces what they call NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which is when your body burns calories during daily activities.
Like going up and down stairs or doing the dishes.
If you have a desk job or a job where you don’t move around much and then you come home to play video games, you can see how those hours add up.
But, obviously, the fix is easy. Limit your sitting sessions to about a half hour at a time, if possible.
You could invest in a standing desk for PC games, or stand while you play certain console games. You have to find ways to integrate movement into your day, as well as traditional exercise.
If you don’t, you could develop diseases like insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. Heart issues are on the table as well.
Your Healthy Gaming Setup
If you’re having any of these issues, it’s time to make corrective changes now. If you’re not feeling anything yet, you should still integrate some of these solutions into your life.
Standing desks are pretty cheap, given their benefits, and you don’t have to get rid of your chair entirely.
Blue light filters for your screens aren’t expensive either. You could even get some of the blue light filtering prescription-less lenses that are on the market right now.
Finally, if you play any type of game, it’s worth strengthening your hand muscles. Theraputty and other toys are great because they make sure you’re not doing the same motion that hurts you (the putty changes shape).
We know that you play video games to relax, but you still have to pay attention to how they’re affecting your health.
Gamer’s Thumb, No More
If you invest in any one of these corrective methods, you should see your strain injuries and your general health improve.
You invested in games, a console, and probably some sort of nice chair. Now, remember to invest in your health.
Or suffer from gamer’s thumb, it’s up to you.
Ready to go for a walk? Listen to our gaming podcast while you do.