Because of COVID-19, people have been spending more time on their gaming consoles. Surveys found that 25% of casual gamers now clock more than 12 hours per week — and it’s much longer for esports athletes, who spend around 5 to 10 hours per day practicing for competitions.
But no matter how fun or lucrative gaming can be, health can become an issue, with back chronic back pain becoming prevalent among the gaming world. In fact, a study from BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine journal discovered that 41% of gamers suffer from back and neck pain, with an additional 36% reporting wrist pain. This discomfort can hinder even your everyday activities and can cause health complications in the long run.
In this article, you can learn about what causes chronic back pain, the symptoms to watch out for, and simple preventative methods.
What to watch out for:
In most cases, your posture is probably the leading cause of your back pain. Sitting in a chair for prolonged periods of time is actually not particular great for you in general, no matter what kind of chair you sit on. The natural resting position is actually a squat position but because we have been so accustomed to sitting on chairs, some people have more trouble squatting than sitting. Hunching over a PC or console for long periods of time can cause postural ailments (lower back and neck pain), overuse ailments (mouse elbow, gamer’s thumb), nerve impingement syndromes (carpal tunnel syndrome), and other aches, pains, and more serious conditions.
Esports Healthcare explains that leaving your posture unchecked can make your spine slip out of position, leading to sciatica (piriformis syndrome). Some of its risk factors include prolonged sitting, obesity, and age. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and provides sensation to your outer legs and feet. If you’re experiencing sharp, burning, or shooting pain in your buttocks, in the back or outer portion of your thighs, or your lower leg, this may be an indication of sciatica. Difficulty flexing your knees and performing any actions using your ankle joint are also possible symptoms of sciatica.
What you can do:
Using a holistic approach, addressing lifestyle, ergonomics, and posture should be the key steps to reducing your back pain. Simple stretches can make a massive difference, with the health guides on SymptomFind listing some stretches you can do when you feel sore or in pain. These can also be done in between long gaming sessions to ease any tension and prevent discomfort.
In particular, the knees-to-chest stretch mimics our natural squatting position and prevents strain on your back muscles; lie down flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Slowly bend your knees towards your chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and repeat as necessary. The seated spinal twist is also an easy way to encourage spinal mobility. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out. Bend one leg and place that foot on the outside of your outstretched leg, then twist your torso towards the bent knee. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds before repeating it on the other side.
There are also items that can help you correct your posture that are covered by the All Things Ergonomic blog. Consider getting an adjustable standing desk, which can improve blood circulation and energy expenditure. There are also downward-sloped gaming cushions or chairs that increase the angle of your hips and knees, making you sit in a more upright position. You can also use foam rollers to roll out sore and tight muscles, as well as switch to ergonomic keyboards and mice.
Although reducing your gaming hours every day is definitely the best remedy, simply taking 5-10 minute breaks in between games will also help. So whether you’re grinding to improve your ranking in Overwatch or just idling in multiplayer games with your friends, set specific times for you to go grab a healthy snack, or do some quick stretches — your back will thank you for it later.