21 Dec Cold Hands while gaming? A Guide to Short-Term and Long-Term Relief
Hello fellow gamers!
How many of you have experienced cold hands while gaming? This is one of the most common topics I’ve been asked to write about and almost every gamer has experienced it in their gaming careers. My goal today is to help you guys better understand what causes this and help you make the BEST decision on what to do.
Cold Hands Misunderstood in Gaming
Cold hands is…… A NORMAL RESPONSE. When exposed to the cold our bodies intentionally redirect blood superficially to internal organs to protect the body from excessive heat loss. It is important for us gamers to understand and realize the majority of us who experience cold hands when playing (especially for long periods of time) are dealing with a normal response to cold.
This is not to say that there aren’t very serious medical diseases which can cause cold hands. Cold hands are often related to some of the following medical diagnoses which affect microcirculation:
- Raynaud’s Syndrome
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Buerger’s Disease
It is however quite rare for these to be the primary cause of cold hands when we game. I want to make it clear I am not understating the importance of identifying whether you have any of these conditions but more I want us gamers to realize the MORE LIKELY CAUSES below.
Before I go on, it is important that you do see your medical doctor to clear these potential disease if you have been experiencing these symptoms for a prolonged period of time and feel that it is affecting your function. Be safe, don’t be sorry 🙂 – please rule out serious diseases if you have the following
- Excessive numbness/tingling affecting your daily activities
- prolonged cold lasting a couple of hours even after attempting ways to improve local circulation (see below)
What are some of the more common causes of cold hands in gaming?
As I mentioned above we have a natural response to the cold to redirect blood superficially to internal organs. But there are other potential reasons SPECIFIC TO GAMERS why our microcirculation can be affected which are not as severe as the medical conditions listed above?
1| Sedentary Lifestyle – As we have probably been told many times a lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a host of health problems. Poor overall circulation is one of them. We have both vascular (blood vessel) and skeletal muscles which affect circulation from our heart down to the microvessels in our fingers. More exercise means better pumping through both of these muscle types and overall regulation through more healthy systems in our bodies.
A more sedentary lifestyle also means poor tolerance to physical and mental stressors. This means the physical stress of playing for prolonged periods of time without rest affecting our local tissues (fingers) and mental stress of dealing with toxic teammates, rage, losing or just life in general. This can lead to our sympathetic nervous system – the fight or flight response – being overactive. This system acts to increase our heart rate, shunts blood away from our hands, feet and abdomen to larger muscle groups (hips, thighs) as a primitive reflex response to prepare us to flee from a threatening situation.
2| Repeated Stress – our worst enemy as a gamer yet… the easiest to manage. When we have poor posture/ergonomics or play for hours on end (especially 24 hr streams) we begin to irritate the tendons we use so frequently during that time. This can cause a local inflammatory response leading to increased pressure on nearby nerves (either within the carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel). Excessive pressure on the pinky-side of the palm can place pressure on the nerve within another nerve tunnel in the hand (cubital tunnel) causing altered microcirculation in the hand.
3| Smoking – In addition to all of the health risks associated with smoking (stroke, coronary heart disease, pneumonia, reduced immune function, etc.), smoking has a direct effect on your blood vessels. The chemicals (carbon monoxide) inhaled damage inner layer of our blood vessels allowing fats and plaque to stick to the walls. Nicotine then causes our blood vessels to constrict leading to less blood flow and more vascular resistance. With poor circulation caused by smoking, the normal response to cold is exaggerated and our symptoms of cold hands last longer than it should.
Alright – we know some more common causes now – what do we do?
Treat the Cause 🙂 Long-Term Relief of Cold hands while gaming
As I have said many times before, I’m a firm believer in treating the cause or root of your issue. In order to minimize the risk of cold hands while gaming – I would suggest taking the following steps to address the reasons listed above. I also provide some quick fixes to help get some blood flow to your hands immediately!
1| GET MOVING. Are you gaming without taking breaks or taking care of your hands? Remember, repetitive stress can affect microcirculation. General lack of larger movement in your hands can limit the amount of blood flow traveling into the fingers. SO GET MOVING. Exercise more consistently. Go Run, Go Climb, Go to yoga. Movement is Medicine 🙂 An easy way to incorporate movement throughout the day is performing short routines throughout the day to undo stress of sitting and prolonged wrist/hand use. Check out our anti-sitting routine or 6-minute post session stretch videos or any of our loot box articles (I provide a list below)
2| CHECK YOUR POSTURE/ERGONOMICS. Yep here we go again – These are always the first to be checked to ensure you reduce the risk of repetitive stress on your hands. We want to ensure the microcirculation at our wrist and hands aren’t affected by posture or the development of any wrist/hand injuries. If you have been dealing with cold hands in addition to some wrist pain, it may be a good idea to look at some of our content to address the underlying pain pattern.
- Repetitive Strain: Managing Gaming’s Biggest Issue
- Avoiding Injuries by Preventing Overheating?
- What you need to know about gaming posture
- Complete Guide to Esports Ergonomics
3| STOP SMOKING – While it is easy for me to say that you should stop smoking, I know how hard it is to quit cold turkey. My main goal with this article is to help those of you who smoke realize smoking can contribute to cold hands while gaming so if it has bothered you to the point that you are reading to this point in my article – it may be bad enough to consider at least reducing how often you smoke 🙂
THE QUICK FIXES: Temporary Relief of Cold hands while Gaming
Now that we’ve talked about the ways to truly eliminate cold hands while gaming long-term, let me provide some quick ways to improve some blood flow to your hands.
1| Exercises! From posture to local exercises for your wrist and hand, it is important to stay moving after a period of reduced activity (sitting). Here’s a list of videos/exercises we’ve put together for you
- 6-Minute Post-Session Stretch
- 1HP Loot Box | Slump Edition
- 1HP Loot Box | Neck Pain Edition
- 1HP Loot Box | Anti-Slouch Edition
- 5 Minute Binge proof Wrist
- 9-Minute Wrist Injury Prevention Routine
- Anti-Sitting Routine
- 5-Minute Full-Body Warm-Up Routine
2| Hand Warmers – As we have likely seen many professionals use in the streams we watch, hand warmers are used very frequently to keep hands warm. These are a SUPERFICIAL source of heat, however. That means that they warm the surface of your hands, but don’t necessarily penetrate deep enough to help warm up the muscles. While they can help to keep you warm once you’ve started warming up, ideally this is more of a support mechanism than a first line of defense when it comes to cold hands.
3| Dietary Changes – Lastly there are several dietary modifications you can make to improve your circulation. Pomegranates, blueberries, dark chocolate and other antioxidant rich foods (salmon, broccoli, kale, spinach) can be great snacks to have while you game to improve your circulation. Almonds along with other sunflower seeds which have vitamin E can improve your circulation. Taking regular fish-oil supplementation has also been shown to improve circulatory function.
The BOTTOM LINE – The 1HP Rx
Remember cold hands is a normal response to exposure to a cold environment. While there are very serious causes for medical conditions (which you should clear with your MD if you have serious concerns), cold hands is usually caused by less severe causes which we can address with simple changes to our lifestyle and how often we move. There are also quick fixes you can perform to improve circulation both globally (your body) and locally (your wrist/hands).