Gaming Workarounds and Tips
By: Katelyn Vause
I seem to have something I think of as carpal tunnel adjacent. My wrists and fingers will hurt if I use the computer for too long, and even everyday activities like doing the dishes can cause pain. When I went to multiple doctors multiple times, I finally found one who ran the tests for carpal tunnel and then basically shrugged. I took the few tips I received and worked on incorporating them into my life. I also came up with some workarounds of my own. Whatever’s going on, I’m thankful that it’s not usually severe and I can just deal with it.
Maybe you’ve just broken your hand and are trying to figure out what to do for the next six weeks, or maybe you’ve got something a bit more chronic like me. I’m obviously not a doctor and cannot dispense real medical advice, and there are lots of brilliant people out there making video games more accessible in much more tangible ways every day, but I hope that you find some of these tips helpful.
- Game with a friend, sibling, partner, etc.
This is hands down the best tip I have. Games are great for social time, but that doesn’t always mean you both have to be pushing keys. My husband and I have done this for years; he handles the controls while I call the shots. It’s great because it gives him a chance to see different storylines and outcomes while I get to spare my wrists and still experience a great game. This is obviously most useful if you’re into games with some narrative substance to them, but this would work with strategy games too if you want to work together to come up with a plan.
Also, if you’re okay with just taking a back seat (and enjoy antagonizing people for their choices), having a few friends over and watching them play fighting games isn’t a bad idea either. During college, I used to go watch Elijah and friends play fighting games and I had a blast. Sometimes we’d do goofy stuff like have me pick terrible characters for people to play with. It’s as fun as you make it, and there’s lots of room for creativity with this option.
- Invest in some ergonomic gear
We’ve all heard of ergonomic mice and keyboards, and you may already own something like an ergonomic mouse pad to help with the pain that can come from daily use. But there are a few other options you may not have considered.
I own a pair of wrist braces, as well as these elbow pads that I refer to as “socks” because they look like tall white tube socks when they’re laid out flat. I bought the braces for around $30 and they’ve lasted me for years. I got the elbow pads for free from a doctor and assume you can find them in a medical supply store or online. However, if you don’t want to pay, just take a t-shirt or pillow case and fold it up a few times and presto! You have an elbow rest. If you suffer from cubital tunnel (basically carpal tunnel in your elbow) or have really skinny arms like me, this is a great investment.
- Invest in some ergonomic gear and use it outside of gaming
Again, some of this may be obvious, but I want to cover my bases. I own a second pair of wrist braces that I wear when I sleep. It’s possible this may help you, especially if you have carpal tunnel. When I was in college, I actually took my socks to class and rested my elbow on one while I took notes (I know everyone thought I was super weird, but oh well). I find that taking care of myself when I’m not gaming means I’m more likely to be able to do what I want later.
- Take breaks
I don’t just mean while you’re playing. If you have a computer-based job, or even have a big cleaning day planned, try to build breaks into it. I’ve found that my symptoms are much worse if I don’t take breaks. Also, try to plan your breaks carefully; for example, clean in the morning and then play in the afternoon. This one also directly ties into the next tip.
- Try yoga or massages
This is going to sound weird, but sometimes pain in your wrists and arms is actually coming from pain in your back and shoulders. Stretching those muscles can help relieve tension and ultimately relieve your pain symptoms. If you’re recovering from surgery, physical therapy will likely be part of your post-op routine, so try to write down as many tips that they give you as possible so that you can continue to use those exercises later.
Rolling your shoulders back and grabbing one side of a chair while leaning the opposite way for a minute while sitting a few times a day are two exercises that I find particularly helpful. Repeating them throughout the day will usually make it the most helpful. Of course, there are tons of free yoga tutorials online, so I would check those out too.
I hope this list had at least one tip on it to help you. Let us know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any other recommendations for gaming workarounds!