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[Guide] Helping with Gaming Carpal Tunnel

beagles
beagles
What's this about?

After a conversation with a friend of mine, who can no longer play MMOs due to this condition, I decided to write about carpal tunnel.

See, it may be possible to prevent carpal tunnel despite high amounts of computer usage, or at least lessen its effects. I am not a medical professional, however.


What makes you qualified?

Let me be clear: I am no medical professional. Any knowledge comes from my father's 30+ years experience in programming, and my 20+ years in gaming and computer documentation.

My father eventually developed carpal tunnel. I nearly developed it, but was able to prevent and then reverse it by using what he had learned. So, please take this with a grain of salt, and perhaps use it as a launching point for your own research!


Why bring it up?

I was reminded of this issue when a friend of mine, barely 32, developed carpal tunnel as a result of intense gaming for many years. We can't play ESO together, or at least, he can only play for short periods of time. :(


How serious is carpal tunnel?

Carpal tunnel is a serious issue; it can prevent you from gaming, eventually prevent simple actions such as picking up a coffee cup, or remove your ability to do things like picking up your child, without experiencing pain. My father ended up having two wrist surgeries. He missed out on playing baseball with his kids.


What can be done to prevent carpal tunnel?

You need a keyboard with "natural bounceback."

What is meant by "natural bounceback"? Hold your hand at a level with your eyes. Using your other hand, tap between the knuckle and first joint. See your finger bouncing back upwards? That is the natural bounceback.

The depth of the keys should make use of this mechanism. To do so, the keys must be deep enough AND have enough "spring" that they encourage the fingers to spring back upwards, naturally.

If these two elements do not exist, and the user is consistently "pulling" the fingers back upwards, it encourages the development of carpal tunnel.


Is there anything else I can do?

It helps to vary hand motion. If possible, vary your input devices during the day to encourage a range of motion. Try setting macros or plug-ins for more constantly used tasks. This isn't advocating macros for PvP, but there are other, reasonable areas in which you can lessen the number repeated key presses.


Which keyboards possess "natural bounceback"?

The old IBM model is an example my father often spoke of, though there are many modernized variations. The kb I use today is modeled after it, and is one that I selected after trying multiple kbs over several years.

The important things for your keyboard are the depth of the key (it should roughly match the level of your fingers' "natural bounceback"), as well as a natural "spring back" after pressing the key. You do not want to be pulling your fingers back up, after each stroke.


In your experience, how effective can a keyboard with "natural bounceback" be at preventing carpal tunnel?

My father never developed carpal tunnel until, after ~20 years of a job of intense programming, they changed the keyboards. For myself, I used to regularly type 20+ pages of single-spaced text per day, and have never suffered its effects--after I changed my keyboard. Before I changed my keyboard, I was beginning to need to ice my hands, brace the wrists, and so on.


Closing words

I hope this helps others out there. I'll definitely miss my gaming buddy; I wish that my friend and I'd known to have this conversation years ago. Maybe it would have helped. Maybe not. Either way, I wish you all the best in your gaming careers.

Remember: I'm no medical professional. This comes from decades in coding, docs, and gaming, over two generations. And ultimately, you'll need to go with your own experience.

Also, if this is not the correct place for this guide, please feel free to move it. I am rather new, here!
  • dhboy123
    dhboy123
    ✭✭✭✭
    What keyboard do you use now then?

    I've developed de quervain's tenosynovitis from gaming, still really hurts alot when PVPing, need to see a doctor about it after this coronovirus stuff dies down.
    Edited by dhboy123 on May 29, 2020 2:36PM
  • beagles
    beagles
    dhboy123 wrote: »
    What keyboard do you use now then?

    I've developed de quervain's tenosynovitis from gaming, still really hurts alot when PVPing, need to see a doctor about it after this coronovirus stuff dies down.

    Ouch! I'm sorry to hear that.

    The one that I use now is a buckling spring keyboard, so it's somewhat noisy, but for me, it is worth it. The model is the Ultra Classic by Unicomp (I do not work for them, or otherwise benefit from this mention). They inherited the old Model M equipment from IBM, and their modern models are based on that design, just USB compatible.

    I've had success with other keyboards, though this has been the best for me so far. As a heads-up, I had a small issue with the original kb they sent me (a key didn't register when pressed); they replaced it at no cost, and my current version has worked wonderfully since 2013.

    My father found that varying his mice would help to a lesser degree, as well--ones that would lay flat, or on the side, for example.

    Best of with your tenosynovitis! I know how painful things like that can be!
  • gman04
    gman04
    Soul Shriven
    I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome about 30 years ago and most-recently with de quervain's tenosynovitis. In both cases the doctors wanted to perform surgery. I decided that was not the best option for me.

    What worked for me was a few things. Rest - yeah I know it sucks but you have to get the inflammation down - ice is very helpful in getting the inflammation down.

    Braces - I wear these at night - still do - braces help compress the area thus helping to reduce inflammation.

    Stretching - once the inflammation is down ease into this - you don ‘t want to over do it.

    Massaging - also do this after the inflammation is down. In both my cases, massaging the hand muscles, wrist muscles, and forearm muscles helped me recover. Massaging will help with blood flow, breaking up scar tissue, etc. I used a massage tool called Armaid which was very helpful with doing self massages.

    After you recover make sure you pay attention to ergonomics. Also make sure you take breaks every 15-20 minutes and stretch while playing video games.

    As with any of the recommendations above, consult with your medical professional first.

    Hope this helps.
  • Hotdog_23
    Hotdog_23
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    Thanks for the information. This really is the main reason I wish I could transfer to PC from PS4. To get away from a controller which I believe is worse on me or at least the trigger buttons are.

    I know I could change but no desire to start over after 5 years. If it came to this, I would just quit ESO. Spent to much money and time to lose my progress and items. Since this is my first MMO and never really played PC games I started from a place of ignorance.

    I have found what helps me is doing daily stretching exercise as recommended here. Or other videos he has. No promotion intended just what I find that helps. Also sleep with a thumb wrist splint every night.



    Be safe and have fun.
  • gman04
    gman04
    Soul Shriven
    Dr. Levi Harrison has some excellent videos on stretches for dealing with and preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and de quervain tenosynovitis (aka gamer’s thumb). I highly recommend everyone to check out his videos.

    I also have a PS4 which unfortunately has been collecting dust. I can not use the PS4 controllers as they hurt my thumbs. Personally I think the PS4 controllers are poorly designed. They are not ergonomic. There are some ergonomic friendly third party PS4 controllers out there but they are expensive.

    I also have an Xbox. Their controllers are a lot more comfortable. I also sometime alternate using the Duke controller once in awhile.

    Below is a video for self massage which I also found very helpful..


  • Hotdog_23
    Hotdog_23
    ✭✭✭✭✭
    gman04 wrote: »
    Dr. Levi Harrison has some excellent videos on stretches for dealing with and preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and de quervain tenosynovitis (aka gamer’s thumb). I highly recommend everyone to check out his videos.

    I also have a PS4 which unfortunately has been collecting dust. I can not use the PS4 controllers as they hurt my thumbs. Personally I think the PS4 controllers are poorly designed. They are not ergonomic. There are some ergonomic friendly third party PS4 controllers out there but they are expensive.

    I also have an Xbox. Their controllers are a lot more comfortable. I also sometime alternate using the Duke controller once in awhile.

    Below is a video for self massage which I also found very helpful..


    Thanks for sharing 2nd video. I will definitely try it. :)
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