They call it a game but it can quickly become a grind if you start to experience pain and stiffness in your wrists and fingers.
For many people who game regularly on either PC or consoles, it can become apparent that your fingers and wrists will become stiff and cause pain.
Whether you’re rapidly clicking keys on a keyboard, scrolling with a mouse, or working the buttons on your Xbox or Playstation controller, your wrists will take the brunt of the pain.
Overworking not just the muscles but also the tendons can quickly cause you to lose feeling, sensitivity, and have plenty of pain in your wrists and fingers.
But have no fear! There are several different wrist stretches and exercises you can do to build strength and limberness in your wrists for your next all-night gaming session.
Whether you’re a professional or a part-time gamer, your wrists will thank you for the attention.
Why Gamers May Experience Stiffness and Pain in their Wrists
There are several reasons why gamers who spend lots of time on their machines may start to have trouble with stiffness and pain in their wrists and fingers.
One of the most common reasons is carpal tunnel syndrome which is caused when you end up gripping something with an extended wrist. Not only does this affect gamers but also anyone who spends plenty of time at a typical computer as well.
There are a few things that may make you more prone to carpal tunnel the foremost of which is your gender. Women are more likely to have this issue be a source of wrist pain than men.
Women’s wrists are more narrow so the tendons and nerves that run through the carpal tunnel have a greater chance of becoming pinched in this small area.
Medical conditions can also be a factor in carpal tunnel syndrome in gamers including diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure, and menopause all make the issue worse. Obesity can also cause an increased risk of carpal tunnel.
Tennis elbow is another way that gamers may start to experience pain in their wrists. This is a condition where the tendons that run from the elbow through the forearm become inflamed.
This happens most typically due to a continued grip during gaming without proper posture or breaks that will allow them to return to normal.
There aren’t any specific risk factors associated with tennis elbow but to keep from having this issue affect your gaming or streaming schedule, you should plan to take several breaks throughout your time. Keep from moving just your wrist during this time and move your whole arm when possible.
The last form of injury that has become common among gamers and causes stiffness and pain in the wrist is the gamer’s thumb.
This is where the tendons in the first compartment of the wrist and running into the thumb. This is most often caused by repetitive use from hours at the controller or keyboard.
Unlike tennis elbow which has no specific risk factors other than overuse, there are a few things that make you more susceptible to gamer’s thumb, the first of which is age.
Anyone who is between 30 and 50 years old is more likely to develop the issue. Women are also more likely to experience this problem as well.
You’ll know you have gamer’s thumb when you experience pain in your thumb during or after gaming along with wrist pain and any pain when you rotate your thumb and wrist down and away from your forearm.
While it may seem silly, physical therapy can be a huge help for anyone struggling with any of these issues. There are a few at-home remedies as well including a host of stretches that will help limber and strengthen up your wrists for your next gaming session.
Prevention is worth the cure so once you know the moves, keep up with the stretches to keep your wrists strong and limber for your next all-night gaming session with friends.
The Best Wrist Exercises for Gamers
If you’ve gone beyond simple pain and stiffness in your wrists, you might need to consult a medical professional and seek out some physical therapy.
But if you don’t think things have gotten too complicated just yet, a few of these simple stretches can keep your wrists and fingers limber as well as build up strength throughout the area.
These are simple moves that will help you build up strength in your wrists.
Strong wrists may not help you move the controller faster or shoot farther in a game but they’ll keep you from experiencing pain and stiffness when you’re done with your stream for the day.
You can do this at your desk, on the couch, or while you’re waiting in line for your favorite coffee drink. Start by stretching your arm out in front of you with your palm facing down. Bend your fingers and palm at the wrist and grab your fingers with your off-hand.
You’ll then pull back with your offhand and hold the stretch for a few seconds before switching hands to stretch out the opposite wrist.
Make sure that you have plenty of room around you before starting the stretch but you can do this stretch almost anywhere so don’t hesitate to keep it up throughout the day. Your wrists will thank you!
Chest to Forearm Stretch
Relax your hand and turn your palm toward your chest to start this stretch.
You’ll then use your off-hand and grab the tip of your thumb pulling on it lightly to extend the thumb outward. You’ll then hold this move for 10 seconds before repeating on your other thumb and fingers.
This is a simple move that you can also use on your wrist. Start with your hand in front of you, palm toward your chest.
You’ll grab your wrist and pull outward slightly until you feel a little bit of discomfort. You’ll hold this for just a few seconds before repeating on the other hand.
Make sure you’ve got a good, firm grip on your thumb or wrist so you don’t slip! While it won’t cause any problems with your wrist or thumbs you may end up smacking your partner or roommate if your grip slips.
Wrist Flexor Stretch
This is going to end up being a bit of the opposite of the wrist extension stretch. You’ll need to do these to open up the area in your wrist and forearm that can easily be stiffened up when you’re busy gaming it up with the boys.
Start this move with your arm extended in front of you with your palm up instead of down like the move before. You’ll then bend your wrist until your hand is pointing toward the floor.
With your opposite hand, you’ll then grasp your fingers as they’re pointing down and pull them back until you feel a slight stretch in your forearm. Hold this for about 15-30 seconds and repeat on each arm 2-4 times to get the maximum effect.
This is another great move to do throughout your day to keep your wrists limber. You may find yourself doing it gently as you go about your normal tasks.
Make sure you have enough room to extend your arms fully in front of you before you try to do this move in a cramped space and end up without enough extension to get the move done properly.
Besides working your wrists, this will also focus on your forearms and keep them loosened up for your next gaming session. You’ll need to flare your elbows for this so rather than needing room in front, be sure you’ve got plenty of clearance to the sides of your chair, position, or sides.
Place your fingers and palms together with your fingers pointing up and your elbows pointing out like you’ve put your hands together for prayer. You’ll end up holding this position for 30 seconds or more.
Push your hands together to engage your wrists and forearms during this move and hold the move as long as you can working up toward a few minutes each time you do this. If you’ve got a pause and you’re able to simply do the prayer stretch, your hands and fingers will feel better in just a few sessions.
There’s also a version of this that’s known as the reverse prayer stretch. Instead of having your fingers facing up, they’ll face down toward the ground.
This is another one where you’ll hold the stretch for 30 seconds. You can up the ante and increase the intensity of the move by raising your hands while you keep your elbows pointing out.
Wrist Joint Circles
When it comes to stretches, the simpler the better! This one ranks as the most simple on the roster so you can get in a few sessions without needing even much of a pause in your gaming schedule.
Start with both of your hands out in front of you. Rotate your wrists in a circle gently about 10-15 times clockwise and then the same number going clockwise.
Since so much stiffness and pain in your wrists is caused by repeated moves in the same way over and over again, these simple wrist circles make your wrists and muscles move in different ways than normal.
By removing your body from its typical routine you’ll be able to build better fluidity and movement as well as strength for another session.
You may feel some pain when you’re doing this move but simply slow down and decrease the number of wrist joint circles you do with each set. When you feel comfortable, increase the number again until you’re up to your next progression.
Tips to Prevent Pain and Stiffness While Gaming
Doing these stretches after you’ve found pain and stiffness in your wrists is one thing but being able to prevent the pain, to begin with, is quite another.
Rather than wait for your body to seize up and cause pain, there are a few things you can do to keep things from getting to that point.
The first thing you should do is make sure that you take breaks!
Not only is it good for your overall health, but it also gives your wrists a bit of time to spring back to where they’re meant to be. During these breaks, your wrist should be allowed to rest and relax during this time.
Stretching is also important and you’ll want to stretch before your game just like for any other sport. You may feel it’s silly but it will help keep you from experiencing more severe pain during your gaming session.
You should also set up your gaming station with ergonomically designed controllers, keyboards, and a mouse to keep your body in great alignment. With this type of equipment, you’ll increase the amount of time it takes for your body and joints to get tired while playing with friends.
Your posture is also a big factor in how you experience and tolerate pain in your wrists. Good posture relieves tension on your wrists and can help keep pain and stiffness in the area at bay.
This better posture will also help you reduce back pain and stiff neck after a long session.
Posture is key to a lot of health issues so focus on it to keep your pain at bay.
You’ll also want to focus on strengthening your wrists so you’ll have better endurance throughout the day. One great way that you can strengthen your wrist is to simply put your forearm on the table and then flex the wrist in an upward direction moving the palm toward the room.
You’ll hold this move for 10-15 seconds several times throughout the day but no more than 15 reps. Keep things under control and without putting too much strain on the wrists is a great way to build up strength without hurting yourself further.
Just like with any other sport, stretching and preventative work is key to keeping pain and stiffness in the wrist at bay for gamers.
Whether you play casually or professionally, you may start to experience pain and stiffness in your wrists and forearms due to repeated use throughout the day and gaming sessions.
Take time to stretch each day and over a variety of moves to keep things limber and without stiffness and pain while playing.
Make sure you have plenty of room to stretch and take care to keep your form and posture in line while going through each move.
Once you’ve decided to make sure your body is limber, you’ll have a much better time playing!
Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost