Prevent RSI and Strain

One thing that affects all avid gamers is health problems attributed to strain and incorrect posture. Whether you work at your computer all day or you spend hours playing games you are susceptible to problems which start out as irritating but eventually become major health risks. There are many factors that contribute to RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in the hands but the most common factor is sitting in an unnatural position for hours on end which in turn strains the delicate muscles and joints in the wrists. It is important to ensure you setup your gaming area correctly from the start and that includes desk height and the type of chair you use.

As with most other health problems a lack of exercise, smoking and a bad diet will compound things so preventing RSI can be more than just incorrect posture as it follows along with all other healthy living information you will read.

What Is RSI?

A Repetitive Strain Injury generally comes from using your hands too much while at the computer. That would include using a mouse and/or keyboard for sustained periods without sufficient rest. RSI can affect your back, neck, shoulder, arms and hands (including the wrists) and is a result of damage to the tendons, nerves and muscles in these areas. The symptoms normally include pain, feeling weaker, numbness and loss of control in the affected arm. Reduced strength in the affected hand can also result and in worse cases it can result in a substantial loss of motor control.

You might think using your computer is harmless enough but consider you will be doing hundreds of different motions every day with tens (or hundreds) of thousands per month putting a huge strain on the delicate muscles in your body. Slowly the muscles react, with small tear appearing from strain, which leads to pain and discomfort. If you are already feeling this then don’t leave it – do some online research and look at ways to improve your situation. As with any pain it will guess worse if left and the symptoms can become more severe as time goes by.

Although most people associate RSI with hands and wrists it can manifest in your neck, shoulders and back (normally caused by improper posture) which may end up leading to more serious health problems.

Am I at Risk?

The following activities or lifestyle choices will put you at great risk of developing RSI

  • Bad/Incorrect Posture
  • Using a PC over 3 hours every day
  • Neglect to rest and take breaks
  • Unhealthy with minimal exercise
  • Work under heavy stress
  • Overweight
  • Smoker
  • Suffer with Arthritis or other medical conditions

RSI often takes years to develop and may take just as long to heal – resting the injured part of your body is critical and if you find your right hand (from the mouse) aching while using the computer you will need to consider adding in frequent rest breaks or using your left hand for a while. It can take around a couple of weeks to train your left hand to use the mouse and it will be frustrating but it worth the two week sacrifice to allow your other hand to heal properly.

Most of us slouch when sitting at the desk which increasing the strain on other parts of the body. If you are a “sloucher” then you need to try and consciously adjust your seating angles to make sure you sit upright and your chair is providing sufficient back support. Posture is the root of many problems and is probably the easiest to fix.

What Can I Do?

Keep the following things in mind while working at your desk or playing games for sustained periods of time.

  • Take regular breaks
  • Adjust your posture so you sit square to the desk
  • Ensure your arms and wrists are supported on the desk
  • Switch between a mouse and trackball (to change patterns)
  • Train your other hand to use the mouse
  • Limit the amount of typing you do
  • Try to increase exercise – especially focus on the back, neck and shoulders
  • If your desk or chair stops you sitting properly then invest in a new one
  • Listen to your body (don’t ignore the problem as it will only get worse)

Recovering from RSI Problems

If you think you have already developed problems, and this could be anything from aching, numbness, pain, burning sensation or loss of strength and control then you need to change your habits right away. These problems will only get worse and you may end up needing surgery. The good news is that changing your habits will allow your body to heal over time but it will take discipline. Take a trip to the doctor if you think you might be suffering from RSI and get a professional opinion. The doctor might send you to a good physiotherapist who can try and repair the damage allowing you to avoid surgery.