If you or your child is a video game enthusiast, you might be worried about developing carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition which often presents itself as tingling or numbness in your hands. Studies talk about the development of “Nintendinitis,” a painful right first finger, “Wiiitiis,” a shoulder injury, “Playstation thumb,” and even “texting tendonitis.” All of these conditions are similar to carpal tunnel syndrome and supposedly are connected to video game or technology play. Carpal tunnel syndrome’s immediate cause is swelling in the wrist which puts pressure on the median nerve, but what actually causes this swelling is up for debate.
Some say that repetitive movements of the hand or wrist are to blame, and while there are some documented cases where this proves true, studies suggest that working on a keyboard or using repetitive hand movements are not entirely to blame for the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Other factors seem to be part of the equation, such as: a genetic predisposition to carpal tunnel issues, obesity, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Most of the time, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs in people ages 46-60, and it mostly affects white females. Research tends to suggest that cases of carpal tunnel syndrome often have multiple factors that create the perfect storm for a carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis.
If you or a loved one is experiencing pain, numbness, or tingling in the thumb, first finger, or middle finger, chances are your physician will perform the following tests to determine if carpal tunnel syndrome is the diagnosis:
- The physician examines the patient’s neck, shoulders, and arms and asks questions to determine if a particular activity may be responsible for the inflammation and swelling.
- Routine blood tests help determine if another issue, such as diabetes, could be part of the problem, and X-rays show if there are any fractures.
- The Tinel test, where gentle pressure is applied to the median nerve, is useful, as well as Phalen’s maneuver which flexes the wrists as far as possible for a minute or two. These two tests are considered positive if tingling, numbness, or pain in the fingers occurs.
- Other electrodiagnostic tests might be necessary, like a nerve conduction test (which measures a nerve’s ability to transmit an electrical impulse) or electromyography (which measures muscle damage and possible damage to the median nerve). These two tests usually are able to confirm a carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis.
Though it isn’t likely that playing video games will cause carpal tunnel syndrome, paying attention to the body and making sure to take breaks when doing lots of repetitive movements during work or play can help ensure that your hands, wrists, and shoulders remain pain-free. In addition, including stretching exercises into your daily routine might be helpful, and watching your wrist position and your posture while doing different tasks could offer insight about possible strain and ideas to improve it. Doctorpedia encourages you to check with your physician if you are experiencing any pain, numbness, or tingling in your fingers, arms, or shoulders. It could simply require a little rest away from the video games!
Nan Kuhlman is an author, freelance writer, and part-time university professor based in Los Angeles, CA. She currently works full-time as a technical writer in Los Angeles and part-time as an online adjunct writing instructor. She has written for scholarly publications like the University of California, Davis Writing on the Edge and Chapman University’s Anastamos Interdisciplinary Journal, among others.