It may be impossible to follow these rules if you work on a laptop; consider pairing your laptop with a separate monitor or use a separate mouse and keyboard and a good laptop stand. If you catch yourself slouching throughout the day, posture correctors can also help. Everyone is different, so find what works best for you.
The Risk of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
“The true incidence of RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in office work is difficult to pin down, but the carpal tunnel is the most common site of nerve compression in the arm,” says Nicholas Pulos, an orthopedic hand and microvascular surgeon at the Mayo Clinic.
Somewhere between one and five people per thousand are diagnosed with CTS every year, and many more suffer issues that come under the catchall term RSI. It’s not just typing that leads to these issues.
“We do see gamers with RSI issues, not just CTS, but also tendonitis and cubital tunnel syndrome,” says Pulos. “The general public, and often gamers themselves, don’t always appreciate the strain that prolonged gaming sessions at a high level of intensity can have on the forearms and wrists.”
There are a few ways to reduce the risk of pain or injury in your hands, wrists, and arms:
- Make sure that your mouse and keyboard are close, so you don’t have to stretch to reach them.
- Your keyboard should be in front of you when you type. A gap of around 6 inches at the front of your desk allows you to rest your wrists when you’re not typing.
- Try to keep your wrists straight, upper arms close to your body, and hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows.
- Adjust the sensitivity of your mouse so that you move as little as possible to operate it.
- Some people will benefit from using a wrist rest, ergonomic keyboard, or ergonomic mouse. Pairing one of the best gaming mice with a good mousepad might help, but everyone is different.
“There may be specific instances where wrist rests are helpful during the day while gaming, but their long-term use may be counterproductive,” Pulos says.
For forearm, wrist, and hand complaints related to gaming and computer work, Pulos recommends an assessment of your work setup (including your schedule) and a visit with an occupational therapist. Certified hand therapists can help gamers by demonstrating specific stretches, nerve gliding and strengthening exercises, and assessing the need for selective splinting. (Nighttime wrist splints are a common first step for carpal tunnel sufferers, to reduce pressure in the carpal tunnel by preventing them from flexing their wrists.)
Protecting Your Vision
One last affliction that our work and play with computers can cause is computer vision syndrome, or digital eye strain. When we stare at screens for long periods, we often unwittingly resist blinking and put a lot of stress on our eye muscles. This can cause headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and even neck and shoulder pain.
The advice on posture and positioning we outlined above can reduce the risk of eye strain, but there are a few other tips to keep in mind: