Hand Therapy Video Gaming Wrist Pain

Advice From a Hand Therapist: Video Gaming Without Pain

You’re in the middle of a good video game. Your team needs you to cover the east arena. But, ouch! Your hands are getting pwn’d! Gaming for hours at a time can cause serious hand or wrist pain. Before you give up your gaming dreams, try these suggestions to ease and prevent the pain.

Ice. If your hand feels hot and swollen, rest and apply ice. Wrap a bag of ice in cloth, and place over the painful area for 15-20 minutes. Ice helps dull pain and reduce swelling.

Rest. Don’t underestimate time disconnected. Your fingers perform forceful, repetitive motions when manipulating buttons and analog sticks.  Decrease the strain on your tendons and nerves by taking time away from the controller. Take a five minute break every thirty minutes.

Ease up the tight grip. There are many narrow passageways in your hand that organize tendons, nerves, and ligaments. A tight grip can compress these passageways, causing pain or numbness. 

  • Keep your hands relaxed. 
  • Turn down the vibration intensity. 
  • Configure button and cursor sensitivity to decrease the amount of force and motion required.
  • Use a controller that comfortably fits in your hand and is lightweight. 

If your palms get sweaty, use a controller that is less slick. Modify controllers by attaching a rubberized surface. 

A Nintendo Switch controller before (left) and after (right) adding a grip accessory.
Rubber pads attached to a PlayStation controller for grip.

Posture matters. Nerves supplying your hand can be affected by the position of your back, neck, and shoulders. 

  • Game in a chair with back support. 
  • Adjust the monitor to your eye level. This reduces poor posture such as forward head tilt and rounded shoulders.
  • Support your forearm parallel to the floor to keep your arm relaxed.
  • Use your hand and forearm in straight alignment. Avoid bending your wrist too far to the pinky side.
Wrong gaming posture (left) versus the corrected posture (right).

Stretch and exercise. Change positions and move your body. Stretch your wrists and hands to keep ligaments, tendons, and nerves flexible. Strengthen your core abdominal muscles to improve good posture. Strengthen your hands to support a steady controller grasp.

Whether you are training for e-sports or gaming for leisure, it’s important to take care of your hands. If your symptoms persist, immediately consult your local hand surgeon or hand therapist for advice. GLHF!


Rebecca Wang OTD, CHT is a Certified Hand Therapist and a member of the American Society of Hand Therapists.

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