The rapid evolution of technology has increased the popularity of gaming over the last few decades. Besides its popularity, the average screen time people spend on gaming is also rising day by day. In the past few years, a large proportion of the gaming population (E-sport gamers) has been suffering from several e-sports-related conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
But what exactly is CTS? What causes it? How can we prevent it? This article provides information about carpal tunnel syndrome in E-sport gamers and how to keep themselves safe from this REAL pain in the wrist.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)?
Carpel tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve compression or median nerve entrapment, is a condition that occurs when the carpal tunnel becomes too narrow, which results in increased compression or trauma of the median nerve and surrounding tendons in the wrist, leading to the swelling in the carpal tunnel.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) describes the condition as a burning, numbness, itching, and painful sensation in the palm of the hand, including the thumb and index finger. Carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) affects more than one million people in Canada and more than 8 million people in the United States [1,2]. E-sport gamers are more likely to have this ailment due to prolonged extension of the wrist and their hours playing games.
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How Are E-Sport Gamers At Increased Risk Of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)?
If you’re an E-sport gamer, CTS is a real professional risk for you as you have to grip a mouse and sit in the same position for 10-12 hours per day. A significant number of professional e-sport gamers take a break or end their career because of hand and wrist injuries. With an increasing number of people playing E-sport games, the prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is also increasing. As E-sport gamers play for prolonged periods, they often forget about any pain they experience in their hands. If left unchecked, minor hand injuries can lead to debilitating injuries, like carpel tunnel syndrome .
This is how carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) affects E-sport gamers:
- Amount of Time Spent on Gaming: A professional E-sport gamer spends 1-12 hours on training for games. If they practice gameplay without any frequent breaks, the risk of carpal tunnel injury, as well as other hand-related injuries, increases due to keeping the hand, wrist, and arm in the same position.
- Repetitive Motion: During repetitive motion, e-sport gamers do the same movement over and over again. For example, they press the same keys and buttons continuously. Putting extra strain on muscles and tendons of the hand and wrist results in the stress and swelling of the carpal tunnel and median nerve.
- Type of Gaming Controller: There are different types of controllers for different games. For example, some E-sport gamers play games using a mouse and keyboard, while some use handheld devices. However, both methods, when used excessively, can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Are The Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are different from person to person. The three main symptoms include tingling, pain, and numbness. Many people experience these symptoms when they wake up in the morning or during the night. These symptoms are experienced in the thumb and two fingers next to it. Pain, burning, and tingling may worsen if a gamer keeps his hand or arm in the same position for a prolonged time.
Treatment For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
The aim of treating carpal tunnel syndrome is to reduce pressure on the median nerve. Treatments include non-surgical and surgical options to improve the condition.
Non-surgical therapy – Preferred when the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are diagnosed early. Non-surgical options include:
NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, alleviate pain related to carpal tunnel syndrome in the short term.
- Corticosteroids: Corticosteroid injections, such as cortisone, alleviate pain and reduce swelling, thus reducing pressure on the median nerve.
- Wrist Splinting: The nighttime symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, such as numbness and tingling, can be relieved by a splint that stabilizes your wrist in a straight position during sleep.
Surgical Options – When symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome persist for more than 6 months, surgery becomes necessary.
- Carpal Tunnel Decompression: This outpatient procedure involves cutting a ligament of the carpal tunnel to reduce pressure on the median nerve. The procedure requires an overnight stay at the hospital 
- Self-Care Tips After Treatment: After the treatment, E-sport gamers are advised to follow a few preventive tips:
- Take regular breaks: Repetitive motion of the hands can put extra pressure on the median nerve. It is recommended to take regular breaks during gameplay and stretch your tendons and ligaments to reduce the progression of CTS.
- Cut your game time: The longer you spend playing games, the higher your risk of getting CTS. Reducing your game time can help your hands relax for a while.
- Cold compress: The problem flare-ups can be reduced by placing an icepack on the wrist. Sure, you’ll get cold hands after that, but it will help manage the flare-ups. Jasmine from Esportsheadlines.com covered a great article on how to keep hands warm while gaming, so be sure to check it out.
- Resting your hand and wrist: The chances of relieving CTS symptoms become higher when your hand and wrist get more rest .
The emerging gaming technology has made people play games for more extended periods. Since E-sport gamers have to train for longer hours to improve their practice, their chances of getting hand and wrist injuries become higher. Carpel tunnel syndrome is the most frequent condition among E-sport gamers, causing numbness, pain, and tingling in the hands and fingers. Reducing playtime, resting hands, and wrists, and taking regular breaks can help them slow down the CTS progression.
- Tadjerbashi K, Åkesson A, Atroshi I. Incidence of referred carpal tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel release surgery in the general population: Increase over time and regional variations. J Orthop Surg 2019;27:1–5. https://doi.org/10.1177/2309499019825572.
- Dale AM, Harris-Adamson C, Rempel D, Gerr F, Hegmann K, Silverstein B, et al. prevalence and incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome in US working populations: pooled analysis of six prospective studies. Scand J Work Environ Health 2013;39:495–505. https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.3351.
- Phong T, Long T, Tuan L, Kristina K. Orthopedic Injuries from Video Games: A Literature Review and Implications for the Future. Int Arch Orthop Surg 2020;3:20–2. https://doi.org/10.23937/2643-4016/1710020.
- Viera AJ. Management of carpal tunnel syndrome. Am Fam Physician 2003;68:265-272+279.
- Migliore L. Prevention of Esports Injuries. In: Migliore L, McGee C, Moore MN, editors., Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2021, p. 213–40. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-73610-1_9.