Move over tennis elbow. These days, texting and gaming hands may just be the more likely-to-complain-about leisure based strain. “When a movement is done repetitively, such as pushing the same buttons for hours and hours, muscles and tendons can become tired and injured,” says Helen Milic, Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) and co-owner of Bayview Sheppard RMT, a successful professional multi-treatment massage therapy clinic celebrating its tenth anniversary.
“We typically see an increase in gaming related issues post-holiday season, but texting is just so popular now that the risks of injury are ongoing,” explains Lisa Macchia, RMT, and Milic’s partner in the clinic.
According to the business partners, tendonitis, a repetitive strain from overuse that can cause inflammation as the muscles and tendons rub against other tissue, is a common injury that can occur from gaming and texting overload. Pain can onset gradually and is usually present when muscles are contracting and working, and goes away when muscles are at rest. “ People may notice cramping in their wrist, hands and fingers and may find it difficult to do other simple movements or tasks such as brushing their hair or even holding utensils to eat,” says Helen.
Postural problems can be another result. Muscles in the neck, chest, shoulders, back and hips are all affected from sitting too long or being curled-up while holding a gaming paddle, laptop or smart phone. “ All of these muscles become tired and stiff either because they are being tightened or stretched. They are in the same position for too long” says Lisa. “When playing video games, this is further intensified, as the adrenaline of the game causes players to tense certain muscles because they feel this will help their performance.”
Whether you’ve been hunched over the controls playing Nintendo’s Smash Brothers, battling it out in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, or simply texting the days and nights away… here are some effective home treatments and advice to relieve and reduce muscle pain:
HYDROTHERAPY (CONTRAST BATHING): This age-old technique is used to decrease non-acute pain and increase circulation bringing essential nutrients and increased oxygen to muscles and surrounding tissues. You can do this for your entire body in a tub but here ‘s how to use Contrast Bathing to relieve Arm pain:
- Fill two tubs or a deep double sink you can fit your entire arm into, one with hot water and one with cold – ensuring water is at your body tolerable temperatures.
- Soak your arms in the hot water for 3 minutes and then switch immediately to the cold and soak for 1 minute. Repeat this 3 times.
- When switching between hot and cold, you may wish to add more hot water on the second or third round. If you add more hot water be sure to keep one hand stirring while adding the hot water so you don’t increase the temperature too much and burn yourself as your arms will be desensitized from being in the cold water. To increase the effect of the contrast bathing on your arms try adding ice or ice pack to the cold water.
THUMB AND FINGER STRETCHES: grasp each individual finger/thumb and slightly pull to feel joints open, relax and move while you pull each digit.
1. Place forearm flat on a table or desk, palm down, and pull back fingers with the other hand bending at the wrist.
2. Place both palms together keeping fingers together, push fingers against each other while separating the palms.
For Thumbs: With your arm extended in front of you, put your thumb in a “thumbs up” position. With your other hand wrap/grasp your fingers around your thumb and pull the thumb back towards your body.
NOTE: Do not stretch through or with pain. Hold for minimum 30 sec. Repeat 2-3 times. This applies for any and all stretches mentioned and should be done after activity. These stretches help realign muscle fibres and promote healing and restoration. These types of long stretches are not to be confused with dynamic stretches (stretches used to warm up in order to do an activity).
USE A PILLOW: Sit-up with a pillow on your lap and place the game or texting device on the pillow in front of you. This can help prevent a “curled” posture.
BUY A GAMING CHAIR: Although not ideal for gaming for long periods of time, these can help prevent slouching and are available at various price points.
SET TIME LIMITS: Set gaming or texting time limits or take breaks to relieve muscles and tendons from activity.
REST: Rest is essential for healing. Time away from the activity depends on the severity of the injury or inflammation.
KEEP HYDRATED: Drink plenty of water to replenish your muscles.
If pain continues Helen and Lisa suggest visiting a professional massage therapy clinic for targeted tendonitis and postural massage treatments. A Registered Massage Therapist will be able to provide a proper assessment to understand the muscular issues and determine effective treatments.”
Bayview Sheppard RMT is located at 321 Sheppard Ave East. Visit www.bayviewsheppardrmt.com for more information.