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When you play video games you enjoy, it’s easy to get carried away and play for longer than you should. That’s because games are designed to keep you interested, and so you want to keep going—to win another point, achieve the next level, or unlock a new playing environment that was previously unavailable.

Unfortunately, when you get caught up in video games—even if you don’t consider yourself a “gamer” or play on a regular basis—you put yourself at risk for injuries, especially injuries of the hand and wrist. Some of these injuries, like trigger finger, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis, can cause significant pain and eventually require surgery if left untreated.

Create a Healthy Gaming Environment

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent gaming-related hand pain and injuries. Here are some tips that can help you set up a gaming environment that encourages good health while supporting your desire to play:

  1. Set a timer. When you’re having fun, it’s easy to completely lose track of time. But it’s important to set limits on the amount of time you play.
  2. Set clear boundaries for everyone in your family. If you have a child or teen, set clear boundaries on how long they can play in one sitting. It may also be helpful to check out different types of parental control software that will automatically shut down a computer after a certain amount of time.
  3. Design a space that promotes good posture. For example, adjust the screen you are using to make sure you are neither craning your neck up or down to see it. Also, choose seating that will support your posture so you aren’t slouching. Doing so can not only lead to back and neck pain, but it can also affect your arms, wrists, and hands, too.
  4. Take a break at least once every 30 minutes. In addition to standing up and stretching, perform the hand stretches and exercises recommended below.

Hand Exercises That Can Help You Avoid Injury

Here are some simple hand exercises that can help you avoid injuries. Be careful not to overextend when performing them.

  • Finger Lift: With the palm of your hand resting flat on a table, lift a thumb up. Hold 10 seconds. Relax and lower. Now, lift each finger off the table one at a time, relax, then lower. Repeat 10 times, then switch to the other hand, or do both hands at once.
  • Thumb Flex: Hold one hand in front of you with your palm up. Next, stretch your thumb as far away from your other fingers as you can for a good stretch. Then slowly bend your thumb across your palm, until it touches the base of your small finger. Repeat 5 times, then switch to the other hand.
  • Finger Stretch: Lace your fingers together, keeping your palms open and facing towards you. Next, stretch your arms out fully. Finally, flip your hands so your palms face outwards. Stretch, then release by shaking out your hands and fingers at your side.
  • Wrist Stretch: Hold one of your arms out straight. With your other hand, grasp the hand of your straightened arm. Now, slowly bend it down until you feel a stretching sensation through the top of your forearm, then hold it for a few seconds. Switch arms, and repeat 5 times.

A final word of advice? Stop playing if you are experiencing pain.

Experiencing Hand or Wrist Pain Now?

If you’re experiencing hand, wrist, or forearm pain that is not improving, even after taking breaks and following these guidelines, you could have a repetitive stress injury. Contact your doctor you may use our My Choice resource to help select the right specialist for you and request an appointment online or call (404) 238-7280 for an appointment at one of our convenient locations in Atlanta, Alpharetta, and Cumming..