You’re ten minutes into your favorite video game (that new Resident Evil right?) when your hands start to cramp. Your favorite way to unwind after a long day is starting to lose its charm, as the hand pain takes over from the fun of battling the undead. My goodness, you think, am I going to have to find a new hobby? Do I have to start stamp collecting?!
(We apologize: stamp collecting is a perfectly great hobby!)
Whether you’re gaming to unwind after a stressful day, or for your legion of Twitch followers, hand pain can hold you back.
First, we want you to know you are not alone. And, even better, you don’t have to give up your favorite things after all! There are some easy ways you can fight hand pain from gaming (also known as Gamekeeper’s Thumb, or De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis), and get back to the things you love!
Pain in hands and fingers has a number of causes. (You can learn about all of them here). While some are more common - like arthritis or carpal tunnel - hand pain is not always caused by an underlying condition. If you have hand pain, and it’s NOT arthritis, it could be as simple as pain caused by overuse. Heck, maybe you aren’t a gamer and you just stumbled onto this article because you have a job that involves typing, working with small tools, or the repetitive use of your hands. At any rate, you’re in pain, and you want it solved!
We can help with that right now in three easy steps!
1. Get A Proper Diagnosis
Yes, you’ll need to see a doctor. A real one, not a podcast host sharing things he’s read on twitter. It’s important to make sure you have a repetitive stress injury like De Quervain’s, and not something else going on. Especially if the pain persists beyond a couple weeks, and resting does not make the pain better - it's good to get a professional on it.
Ok, we understand doctor’s visits can be costly and time-consuming, so if that’s not in the cards right now, here is something simple you CAN try:
2. Take Breaks (And Stretch)
If your gaming (or otherwise hand-use-related) pain is indeed De Quervain’s or a similar overuse related condition, the best thing you can do is take a break from the activities causing the pain. Adjust your grip, find a more ergonomic game controller (or keyboard or whatever), and listen to your body.
If your muscles are sore after a long workout, you’d rest them right? This is the same idea. And, following that metaphor, you can also gently stretch or massage sore hands and wrists to relieve pain.
Looking for a stretch that is particularly helpful? Try thumb lifts! Place your hand palm side up on a flat surface and lift your thumb so it crosses toward the ring finger. Repeat this a few times for each hand. You can also lift your pinky at the same time and have it meet your thumb, just being careful to keep your hand as flat as possible. Listen to your body - gentle hand and thumb stretches are meant to relieve pain, not cause more of it.
3. Find a New Best Friend (in Pain-Relieving Products)
That’s right! The world is full of products that can help reduce inflammation (like compression gloves) or hold your thumb and wrist stable while you’re gaming (like a comfy wrist brace).
Some items can be worn during the activity, others can be worn overnight to relieve pain so you can wake up recharged and ready to slaughter zombies or explore too-long open worlds or take sass from teens over your headset.
Intrigued by compression gloves but unsure if you're ready to take the plunge? Learn more here about why these little babies might just be your new best friend!
And that’s it! There are other things we recommend for joint and tendon pain, but pain related to gaming can usually be solved with at-home treatments. Convincing your significant other that gaming is a worthwhile hobby on the other hand... That one’s on you!
Written by: Jess Krzyczkowski
Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ben Frederick