Video games are designed for human beings, but human beings are not designed to play video games. Our hands are simply not constructed to manipulate game controllers for hours on end. Most video game controllers require the thumbs to take the brunt of the activity, and that often leads to a condition known, appropriately enough, as Gamers Thumb. This is a type of repetitive stress injury affecting not only the thumb, but the wrist as well.
People afflicted with Gamers thumb will often notice that they dont have the strength in their hands that they once did, or the range of motion. They may also notice a popping sound, or a feeling of snapping, on the outer part of the thumb where it joins the wrist.
The thumb is designed to move inward toward the wrist, and its overall anatomy makes this possible. This action, the movement of opposable thumbs, is what distinguishes us from animals, enabling us to pick up objects and use tools. The thumb is made to grip, but not to complete complex motions that can put stress on the joint as wells as the tendons and muscles that are attached to it. When non-gripping movements are performed over and over, inflammation in the tendons and in the tenosynovium (a membrane that helps the tendons to slide through the wrist) can occur. The ability to grip is then reduced, and swelling can occur in the thumb, the wrist, and even the forearm. This, at its essence, is Gamers Thumb.
Usually, Gamers Thumb pain occurs when the wrist is flexed, or when the sufferer grabs something or makes a fist. It occurs in gamers who play for long periods of time, usually every day. If left untreated, the inflammation can worsen, and the synovial sheaths that protect the tendons can thicken and even deteriorate. In the long term, this can lead to a loss of range of motion, loss of strength, and even permanent damage accompanied by constant pain. Not only will you have trouble performing ordinary activities, your gaming career is going to be over.
If Gamers Thumb has not progressed significantly, it can be treated. Treatment is much the same as for other injuries to the hand and wrist. Most importantly, you need to rest, so whether your passion is Minecraft, Call of Duty, vintage games like Super Mario and Tetris, or maybe just Facebook games like Candy Crush or Bejeweled Blitz, you need to take a bit of time out. Watch a movie, read a book, go for a walk – whatever gets you away from your games.
You can get relief from the pain by applying cold packs to your hand and wrist, and taking over-the-counter pain remedies. Keeping your hand elevated can also ease the discomfort.
Keep in mind that if you have noticeable symptoms, you cant “scale back.” You have to stop for a while. But if you do, youll be back at your gaming console soon, none the worse for the wear.