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The Rise Of Repetitive Strain Injuries In Esports & Gaming

The Rise Of Repetitive Strain Injuries In Esports & Gaming

Gaming hit a historical moment in 2022, gaining the approval of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In 2023, the inaugural Olympic Esports Week was held in Singapore, making it recognised as an official sports discipline.

Gaming is no longer just an activity to pass the time; there has been early evidence stating that it is able to improve hand-eye coordination and cognitive function. With IOC’s recognition, esports have skyrocketed over recent years, with competitions awarding millions of dollars in prize money. As a result, competitive gamers train to build muscle memory by playing for approximately 8 to 16 hours daily.

The prolonged hour of playing repetitively is also the leading cause for many professionals to retire due to the development of shoulder, forearm, and wrist pain, all of which can be categorised as repetitive strain injuries (RSIs).

Repetitive strain injuries

RSIs occur when the affected tendon or muscle undergoes so many continuous and frequent repetitive movements that it is not able to heal properly — ever heard of tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow? They are good examples of RSIs that are a result of overloading of tissue tolerance and repetitive stress.

Unlike golf and tennis, which come with significant amplitude and force of each hit, gaming does not generate much force. However, the duration and repetitions that come with the prolonged sessions are the cause of RSIs. For computer gamers, the strain from the tensed and curled fingers reaching for their keyboards can add up quickly. For console gamers, the twisted and extended thumbs often lead to wrist dysfunction, causing chronic wrist pain. Games that require repeated clicking, such as mobile games, DOTA, and League of Legends, are notorious for leading to arm pains and aches.

Common gaming-related RSIs

Gaming-related RSIs do not affect only pro gamers. Even if you are not one, playing for prolonged periods in a single position can cause RSIs to occur. Here are some of the common gaming-related RSIs:

1. Shoulder and neck pain: Slouching and poor postures cause the head to tilt forward, resulting in significant stress on your muscles and cervical spine. In fact, you are most likely slouching while reading this article. Your gaming posture correlates to how much stiffness and soreness you experience in your daily life.

2. Forearm pain: The forearm muscles end near the wrist. Individuals who experience forearm pain often will develop wrist issues as well. A stiff forearm can be hard to get rid of since most gamers and office workers who spend prolonged hours at their desks do not take sufficient amounts of breaks.

3. Gamer’s wrist: Have you ever needed to roll and crack your wrist every 30 minutes of using your keyboard? That is the initial indication that the tissues in your wrist are over-stressed. More often than not, wrist pains are referred to as pain in which its source is further up.

4. Gamer’s thumb (De Quervain’s tenosynovitis): Individuals with gamer’s thumb often experience swelling and pain at the base of their thumb, resulting in difficulty with pinching or grasping, as well as pain when rotating the affected thumb or making a fist. Gamer’s thumb is often caused by overloading it with repetitive tapping and scrolling.

5. Olecranon bursitis: Olecranon bursa is a membrane sac located behind the elbow that allows the bony part of the elbow to glide smoothly across the overlying tissues. For gamers, as they rest their elbows on a desk for a prolonged period of time, their bursae would be compressed excessively. This leads to pain and swelling around the elbows which indicate damage and inflammation of the bursae.

Do I have RSIs?

It is vital to note that the above RSIs do not only affect gamers but also deskbound job employees. Even individuals who spend an excessive amount of time typing and holding their phone can develop RSIs. Hence, it is vital to place your wrist in a neutral position when typing on the keyboard or using the phone.

Unhealed RSIs of the wrist can lead to the development of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is more severe and damaging. The median nerve travels through your forearm to your wrist and hands via the carpal tunnel. When your wrist becomes too damaged and inflamed, it might impinge on your median nerve, resulting in muscle weakness, tingling sensations, and numbness.

How does chiropractic treat RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome?

The common management solution that doctors and physiotherapists recommend is bracing and stretching. While they may help mild RSIs, they are not as effective as they do not target the root cause. As the fascia, tendons, and muscles get strained continuously, they develop adhesions and scar tissues, making the affected region stiffer, harder, and ultimately, less functional and flexible.

Stretching may provide instant but temporary relief, and bracing may provide rest for the inflammation to dissipate. However, what about the adhesions and scar tissues? Chiropractic care can help target every single aspect of RSI. Using targeted adjustments of your neuromusculoskeletal system, chiropractors can break down the fibrotic tissues while restoring the normal length of the tissues.

Chiropractic care offers significant and instant improvements in function and flexibility. Another benefit of chiropractic care is that it can restore the normal alignment and structure of the wrist joint which is made up of 8 small bones with each capable of causing dysfunction if they are out of place. Chiropractic adjustments generally offer a softer touch, which is ideal for targeting the already irritated and inflamed tissues.

Conclusion

RSIs are real and detrimental to our overall health. Prolonged hours of gaming or working at our computers without adequate ergonomics and rest can lead to the development of RSIs at our wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder and neck, ultimately leading to the development of various injuries and problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis (gamer’s thumb), and olecranon bursitis.

Fortunately, Healing Hands Chiropractic can help you alleviate and treat your pains and aches. From lower back pain treatment to carpal tunnel syndrome treatment, our chiropractors employ a wide range of chiropractic techniques to help target the source and manage it effectively. We also offer corporate wellness programs for businesses that are looking to incorporate a healthier lifestyle into their daily workflow. Contact us to relieve your pains and aches.

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