Home   »   Esports Health   »   Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Gamers: Symptoms and Treatments

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Gamers: Symptoms and Treatments

Written by: Jasmine Chiam
what-is-carpal-tunnel-syndrome-symptoms-treatment

Carpal tunnel syndrome is currently one of the most common injuries to nerves lying outside the brain and spinal cord. This condition involves the damage and compression of the nerve in the carpal tunnel, hence, its name. While carpal tunnel syndrome could be regarded as an occupational disease that primarily affects those exposed to high-force repetitive work and vibrating tools, it is no stranger to the esports world.

As the popularity of the video game industry skyrockets, the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome may follow suit. In fact, research conducted over the years has supported the possibility of an increased likelihood of this ailment with prolonged PC use [1].

If you’re an avid esports gamer who dedicates extended hours in front of the screen, you may be at a heightened risk of experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome. Nonetheless, it still remains a frequently misdiagnosed medical condition to date [2].

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by burning pain, tingling, or numbness. The hallmark symptoms of classic carpal tunnel syndrome are distributed in the territory of the median nerve, the main nerve that lines the front of your forearm and controls the movement of your hands [3].

This medical condition usually involves the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and part of the ring finger. Essentially, these are the fingers innervated by the median nerve, which is why the pinky finger typically isn’t affected by this medical condition [2]. While some solely experience localized pain and paresthesia affecting the wrists, others struggle with symptoms affecting their entire hand, excluding the pinky [3].

There is still a heated controversy surrounding the role of prolonged computer use in the incidence of this ailment. Nonetheless, studies have suggested that performing repetitive movements for an extended time, as you would when playing video games, could lead to overuse injuries and orthopedic manifestations over the years of consistent gaming [4].

In carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive hand and wrist movements can lead to the compression and irritation of the median nerve, precipitating the development of characteristic symptoms as mentioned above.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Your Esports Career

Based on the British Esports Association’s statement, it is not unusual for players to dedicate around 16 hours per day into esports practice.

If you were headed to pursue an esports career, you would expect to allocate numerous hours to training and practice. This fundamentally leaves you vulnerable and exposed to repetitive and forceful hand movements as a result of constant keyboarding and mouse use [5].

It’s not surprising that playing PC games primarily revolves around repetitive movements of your wrists and hands, static body postures, and increased muscle tension. Cumulatively, this may contribute to the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome, which is why gamers are highly encouraged to break up extended periods of gaming with exercise, stretching, and rest [5, 6].

Carpal tunnel syndrome usually starts with non-debilitating discomfort and numbness, with symptoms presenting or worsening at night. If left untreated, this ailment can progress to induce more severe health consequences [7].

You may experience hand tingling and weakness throughout the day, making it challenging to perform manual tasks and grasp smaller objects. In later stages, your sense of touch of hot and cold may diminish, leaving you vulnerable to burn injuries without even realizing it [7].

Unfortunately, this condition may heave your esports career into rocky waters. The pain, weakness, and paresthesia associated with it may limit your ability to skilfully utilize your mouse and keyboard, and more so if the video game demands movement accuracy and dexterity. Continued training may aggravate symptoms and worsen prognosis, especially if inadequate treatment or management is undertaken [6].

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment For Gamers

Early detection of carpal tunnel syndrome bears paramount importance and plays a crucial role in recovery success. Upon diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor may recommend several management options.

Splinting is the first-line treatment option for mild to moderate symptoms, as patients wearing wrist splints have reported better relief. Additionally, local corticosteroid injections or oral steroid medications may help remedy the pain, discomfort, and swelling associated with the condition. Surgical decompression is the final but highly effective choice to tackle severe symptoms [8].

For gamers, the sole use of ergonomic positioning or equipment has unfortunately failed to prove effective in carpal tunnel syndrome management based on research [9]. Nevertheless, positive results were obtained when ergonomic interventions were paired with education involving the application of these strategies, counseling on postural hygiene, sufficient exercise, and breaking up prolonged computer use with frequent breaks [10].

What To Expect After Treatment

While some patients do not experience deterioration of symptoms without treatment, others do. Hence, it’s best to seek professional advice and treatment if you’re experiencing worrying discomfort, pain, or numbness affecting your hands or wrists.

Because the course of this disease differs from person to person, it’s hard to predict the outcomes of treatment or the occurrence of symptom relapses, though cases may be self-limiting and improve over time [11]. Furthermore, splinting and corticosteroid injections are usually effective, but any benefits may only dwell short term [12].

Hence, arranging follow-ups with your healthcare professional post-treatment is the safest course of action to take.

Conclusion

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition involving compression and damage to the median nerve. Other common overuse injuries gamers may experience include gamer’s thumb and trigger finger. Essentially, if you practice healthy lifestyle habits and avoid prolonged hours of training and gaming without breaks, you’ll likely be in the clear from these ailments.

However, if you experience symptoms suggestive of carpal tunnel syndrome, try not to disregard them. In this case, it’s best to seek professional assistance as soon as possible to preserve the function and movement of your fingers, wrists, and hands. After all, the success of your gaming career does depend on how well you care for them.


Disclaimer: This is an educational post on carpal tunnel syndrome. It should not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. EsportsHeadlines.com and the author of this post disclaim any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, as it is not meant for diagnostic or treatment purposes.