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Repetitive strain injury from gaming or computer use

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Are you a big gamer or spending hours on your PC or laptop? Here are our top tips on how to avoid repetitive strain injury (RSI) and advice on what to do if it starts to develop.

What is repetitive strain injury?

RSI is when repetitive movement causes pain due to overuse or strain of muscles, ligaments, or tendons. You may experience shoulder pain from using the mouse too regularly. The symptoms can range from pain and aching to numbness or tingling. Symptoms are made worse by continuing to do the repetitive movement. For gamers or people using laptops regularly for long periods of time, RSI can develop in the fingers, hands, or wrists.

How can I avoid developing it?

Regular breaks from gaming or repetitive computer tasks are important, not just for your hands, but also taking breaks from screen time is important for your eyes and your general health. During these breaks, it’s important to stretch and move your hands, wrists, and forearms, as they will have been in a similar position for a long time.

It’s a good idea to do a thorough body shake-out and stretch every half hour or so, and consider getting out for a walk if you’re desk-working or gaming for long periods. Good posture is key to prevent muscle pain and injury, so take a good look at your desk setup: check that you’re not putting any extra strain on your neck, arms, or hands.

What stretches should I do?

If your work or activities mean that one muscle group is used repetitively or held in the same position for a long period, any stretches that get the area moving will be beneficial.

Here at Healthwords, we find the following three movements are a good place to start:

  • First one, bring your hand into a fist, then stretch out your fingers as far apart as you can.
  • Second, touch your thumb to each of your fingers and then to the base of your little finger.
  • Lastly, move your wrist all the way in both directions – flexion and extension. You can also massage your fingers, thumb, and forearm to help relieve any tension.

Are there any treatments?

If you’re getting pain from the area that has been over-used, you’ll need to rest up and avoid any activity that causes further pain. It needs time to recover. You can also take over-the-counter pain relief or anti-inflammatories such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

If it’s not an option to avoid the activity, you could try a wrist splint – it helps to reduce load on the area and give it time to heal. Your local pharmacist can recommend a splint. If the pain continues, you can see your doctor or a physiotherapist. Strengthening exercises around the area may help. You could also look into workstation aids, such as an ergonomic keyboard, an upright mouse, or a different games console controller.

It may be worth enquiring if your employer has access to an Occupational Health service, to help you recover from RSI if they consider this a work-related injury.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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