Physical Therapists Advise Consumers to be Aware of Injuries Caused by Overuse of Video Games
Children and adults who received the must-have gifts of the holiday season, Nintendo's Wii™, Sony's™ PlayStation 3, Microsoft's™ XBox 360, or a BlackBerry Pearl may get something that they didn't wish for -- sore thumbs and hands -- according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
Continuous use of video games, excessive cell phone text messaging, and prolonged tapping with a stylus is stressful on tendons, nerves, and ligaments in the hands and arms, and can lead to long-term consequences such as tendonitis, bursitis, and carpel tunnel syndrome.
"Gamer's Thumb" is a very real condition that can have long-term effects on the hands and upper arms if the proper precautions are not taken. "Gamer's Thumb" is a repetitive stress injury (RSI) that causes swelling at the base of the thumb due to overuse of video games and hand-held devices. RSI is an umbrella term for a collection of disorders most commonly affecting the hands, wrists, forearms, and shoulders. "Symptoms can range from fatigue and loss of strength to minor aches and pains, burning, and tingling," says Ellen Haverstick, PT, owner of Advanced Physical Therapy Center of Conway.
"It is not only children who are developing these problems. I have had recent complaints of neck, shoulder, wrist and hand pain from over-zealous adults who are playing 'Guitar Hero', Nintendo Wii, and operating hand-held devices," Haverstick adds.
The APTA has produced a colorful, one-page tip sheet, featuring simple hand stretches and exercises to prevent "Gamer's Thumb." This useful tool can be downloaded from Advanced Physical Therapy Center's website at www.advancedptcenter.com.
To protect against injuries, APTA also recommends the following:
- Keep wrists straight; do not let them bend downward when holding a game controller.
- Practice good posture while playing. Sit in a chair that provides solid back support with feet comfortably on the floor.
- Take frequent breaks. Remember to rest every 20 minutes or so to give neck, head, shoulder and hand muscles a break.
- Parents, watch for problems! Look for warning signs such as headaches, fatigue, muscle pain or cramping, and suggest a break or alternate activity.
"Gamer's Thumb" usually responds quickly to physical therapy intervention. Visit www.apta.org and click on "Find A PT", to locate a therapist near you.
The American Physical Therapy Association (www.apta.org) is a national organization representing nearly 70,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students nationwide. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapist education, practice, and research.
Advanced Physical Therapy Center of Conway is locally owned and operated by Ellen Haverstick, PT. APTC is committed to providing expert, one-on-one care for orthopedic injuries in a relaxed environment. For more information call (501) 328-5878 or visit www.advancedptcenter.com.