The Geek Player’s Guide to Chronic Pain Limbs

Two years ago, I seriously hurt my back. I was always vulnerable. I inherited very flexible joints from my mom. Now I also inherited back pain. Recovery has been a non-linear process that has involved radically changing the way I live my life, with the help of a physical therapist that I am lucky to have found. I now live by a common axiom about chronic pain called “spoon theory. Every day, I have a number of “spoons” at my disposal—a measure of my energy, with each spoon denoting the ability to do one task. Sometimes I wake up with a few spoons to spare. Sometimes I overspend spoons and have to live for weeks in recovery, with no spoons on launch.

Have you ever thought to yourself, I want to get better at gaming, but I don’t want to ruin my life? We’re here to help with a special week dedicated to All about video games and health.

Playing video games used to replenish every spoon in my drawer — it was as restorative and passive a hobby as reading or solving a puzzle. But all of these activities have one thing in common: They involve sitting, sitting, and lifting my body for hours at a time. After my back injury, I realized that I had to rebuild my idea of ​​comfort, and that I needed to include ergonomics in almost every aspect of playing games, especially because I have a tendency to get caught up in it. Sheikh’s ring head or complete a Celeste The oath is an incredible emotional high, but it makes my body feel like it Rotten bag of meat. Nowadays, I seriously think about the tools I use, and the positions I sit in (or put my body in) as I become obsessed with the game.

I’ve rounded up some of my favorite “hacks” for chronic pain gamers. Since chronic pain is an individual experience, your mileage may vary. But these tools and tricks have helped me enjoy gaming in the most pain-free way since my injury. Hope it helps you too.

If product recommendations are your goal, feel free to skip to the next section! But I wanted to start here, because this tip doesn’t require spending any money.

You can buy just about every comfort product in the world, but unfortunately there’s nothing comforting about staying in one position for hours on end—whether you’re sitting or standing—if you don’t have to. The problem is that many of us work in environments and jobs where we don’t have the option to change our attitude often. So, my best advice for someone who plays intense games and has the ability to change position: every 30-60 minutes, get up and take a few steps in your room, or stretch your arms and legs. This is annoying and unappealing advice, but it has made the biggest difference in my back pain. I’d like to set a timer to help me remember the movement.

Find the right video game console

Controls have different perks, such as haptic feedback, button layout, or aesthetics. But since they’re somewhat different in size and shape, there’s also the possibility that one of these controllers may feel more comfortable in your hands than the other.

For me, the Nintendo Switch Pro controller and DualSense PS5 controller are the best. The Joy Cons feel terrible, and the Xbox Series X controller (although I own a very Cute with brad design on it) Makes my hands convulsive to the high heavens. As a result, I made sure the controllers that were most comfortable synced with my gaming settings. These are the only ones I use.

You might be surprised at how versatile your favorite wireless controller can be. In the age of wired controllers, you’re stuck with which one works with your console. These days, you can get an Xbox controller to work with the PS5 — it takes some extra work, but it’s he possible.

There are also accessible consoles designed for a range of capabilities. the Xbox Adaptive Controller It’s great for fully customizing your console setup to what’s most comfortable, or what matches your mobility abilities.

Protect your neck when using mobile devices

I love my Nintendo Switch, but I hate what happened to my neck. As a kid, I could talk about my Game Boy Advance SP for ages. These days, I know I’ll be pushing her through the pain over the next week, if not longer. I speak from experience. With my Switch in manual mode, I spent hours trying to beat Watcher Knights Hollow Knight, only to find that I couldn’t turn my head to the left for the next week. Watcher Knights’ victory felt good. In fact, taking care of myself would have felt better.

I’ve been gentler on my body since then, and that has included some fixes. At this point, I always clip my Switch to something while gaming, and use a Nintendo Switch Pro controller — even when I’m not using the Switch with a TV or monitor. I use a tablet arm stand, playstand, or stack of books to stick or mirror the screen. If you travel frequently, I recommend the Airplane Tray Table Replacement Clip. I use it to position the screen at eye level the same way.

Even if my portable console doesn’t have detachable controllers – like the Switch Lite or Steam Deck – I still use a stand for a tablet arm and a separate controller whenever possible.

Tablet stand holds Nintendo Switch facing armchair.  A Hollow Knight plush is sitting on the chair.

Photo: Nicole Clark/Polygon

If I don’t have a separate controller available, I’ll do my best to make sure I change the way I hold my hand and the angle of my neck every 30 minutes or so. If I’m sitting at a kitchen counter, coffee table, or desk, I’ll rest my elbows on the surface, and instead of bending my neck and shoulders, I’ll move the console to eye level. If I’m on a sofa or armchair, I’ll bring my favorite wooden desk that I also use for hobbies like painting and do the same. On days when my wrists are tired, I use a wrist brace as well.

I also tried a pair of prismatic glasses — ones that let you look forward but at a 90-degree angle down — similar to what surgeons and tailors use. They have a learning curve, but I’ve found them really useful for a long time Stardew Valley gaming sessions, where I focus less on skill than on investing time in grinding.

Fix your office setup

If you’re a PC gamer, there are a whole host of tweaks you can make to make your setup more comfortable. (Here is more complete A guide to comfortable PC gaming settings.)

One less expensive solution is to set your monitor at eye level, or to place your laptop on a stand or stack of books. Your laptop or computer screen should be about an arm’s length from your face, and the top of it should be a few inches above your eyes.

If you’re using a height-adjustable chair, another important adjustment is to make sure your seat is at the height where your elbows are at a 90-degree angle when typing. If your feet are hanging off the floor, you can use a stack of books, or something else reasonably priced, to support your legs so that your knees are also at a 90-degree angle.

To prevent eye strain and headaches, make sure your screen’s brightness does not jiggle in comparison to the light in the room around you.

These are the pieces I would categorize as worth seeking out in a version that feels right on your body, or some sort of “premium” version of it. While much of this is expensive to purchase new, certain high quality items can be found used or from office liquidation stores.

Good chair with adjustable settings

In terms of sticker price, this is the most expensive item on the list. It’s complicated by competing definitions of what is the “best” ergonomic chair. Although there are plenty of “best” lists out there, everyone’s body is different, and what feels comfortable will vary from person to person. Ideally, you could try to find a store that will let you test out different chairs. Sometimes furniture stores have models on the floor that you can test out without committing to buying anything.

Regardless of whether you can try on a chair before you buy, you should consider three main criteria: how adjustable it is, its dimensions, and your return policy (if you’re buying it new). In the context of an office chair, “ergonomic” is a fancy way of saying that it’s adjustable—the chair should have settings that allow it to conform to your body, and to accommodate the changes you’ll make to your posture during the day. Look for a chair with adjustable height, light tension (it allows you to lean back, adjust how easy it is to do so, and locks in the position at various points), and lumbar support (higher-end chairs will allow you to adjust lower back tension). The adjustable armrests are also great.

Desk setup with Nintendo Switch and large gaming screen, with Nintendo Switch pro console on desk mat.

Photo: Nicole Clark/Polygon

Unfortunately, most standard “gaming chairs” really don’t, except for specific ergonomically designed models, like the Embody gaming chair. However, if you have a cuddly gaming chair that actually works for you, I’m not going to fight you!

Finally, make sure the size is right. The Aeron, for example, comes in more than one size and height. Although it is one of the most expensive chairs, it is also one of the most popular, often available through office liquidation stores, outlet stores, or Craigslist.

A mouse will not harm you

It took me an embarrassingly long time to get a better mouse, because I didn’t think there was anything “wrong” with my old machine. It is true that the former succeeded. But when I finally upgraded to an ergonomic design, my layer of wrist pain vanished. You love to see it.

If your wrists hurt, you might also look into a wrist rest or ergonomic keyboard – for example, a split pad or keyboard angled into a more natural position for your wrists.

Some of my favorite relief fixes have felt silly in hindsight—and yet they’ve solved some of my worst pain issues. My favorite “chronic pain tool” was a simple pair of thin socks. I realized that my back pain rose when I squatted. The best solution was to keep my feet warm so I wouldn’t unconsciously put them under my legs.

I don’t actually recommend thin socks as a “gaming peripheral”. My point here is to be alert and aware of what is causing your pain, if you can and when, and to embrace accessible solutions or modifications when those options arise. It can be hard to be aware of your body when you’re focused on gaming (I often play games specifically to distract myself from how my body is going crazy). When I’m involved in a game, I hardly notice the weird and uncomfortable situations I’m getting myself into. So I designed my gaming setups with that in mind, making it easier to take care of my body.

Hopefully, you now have the tools to do that, too.

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