Gaming neck pain is often caused by long hours in front of a screen and can cause serious problems if left untreated.
Let’s face it, you can dive down every Reddit, WebMD, or search engine rabbithole when it comes to neck pain related to prolonged gaming, work, or school and never find an answer. For those of us who enjoy the hobby or are grinding for higher elo or towards the professional scene, there’s a lot of hours that go into our favorite title. Prolonged gaming sessions can take a toll on our bodies, and understanding some of the most common issues may lead us to heal or find help sooner. In this article, we’ll delve into the top 5 gaming-related neck injuries, providing insights and tips from a medical professional’s perspective to keep you gaming comfortably and safely.
Cervical Facet Syndrome:
Cervical facet syndrome is a common neck injury among gamers, characterized by pain and discomfort in the cervical facet joints. These joints, located between the vertebrae, can become irritated due to prolonged periods of maintaining a fixed head position during gaming. Symptoms may include localized neck pain when looking up to ceiling or side-being the head toward the side of injury, stiffness, and headaches. To prevent cervical facet syndrome, take regular breaks (I recommend every 30-60 mins), perform neck stretches and active mobility, and ensure your gaming setup promotes a neutral head position. See our ergonomic and posture guide here.
Neck and Shoulder Strain:
Neck and shoulder strain is a result of muscle fatigue from maintaining an awkward or prolonged posture while gaming. Each muscle is responsible for moving or maintaining our joints in their respective motions. These muscles have a specific capacity to tolerate loading (strength vs. power vs. endurance). If this capacity is exceeded it can cause micro and macro tearing of the fibers (muscle strain). While we can train these muscles to improve their endurance capacity needed for the grind, at some point they will always fail without adequate rest. You could have the best posture in the world, however, we are not made to be stationary creatures. While poor ergonomics, such as an improperly positioned monitor or an uncomfortable chair, can contribute to this condition, and I highly recommend “ideal” setups we still have to move more often.
This includes dedicating at least one hour 3-5x week dedicated to resistance mobility training. On your scheduled breaks between sessions I recommend walking or other low-moderate intensity cardio, incorporating neck and shoulder stretches, and low-weight high-repetition exercises before returning to your desk and assuming a slightly different posture.
Radiculopathy of the Cervical Spine:
Radiculopathy occurs when the nerves exiting the spinal cord are compressed or irritated, leading to pain, numbness, or weakness. This can be caused by a vertebral disc (less often) or stenosis (narrowing space of the nerve path). If you feel your symptoms start at your neck and radiate down your arm on one or both sides, it’s vital to rule out radiculopathy as a cause of what you may be feeling down your arm.
Prevention includes the prior mentioned ergonomic support, scheduled breaks and movement. If you are dealing with numbness, tingling, or electric-like sensations. I highly recommend you reach out to a medical provider you trust or reach out to us here at 1HP to see if we can help. You may also want to look up our nerve mobilization/glides/slides routines.
Hypomobility of Thoracic Spine:
An imbalance between the mobility of the thoracic and cervical spine can result in neck pain. Hypomobility (less movement) in the thoracic spine combined with hypermobility (more movement) in the cervical spine puts extra strain on the neck muscles and increases wear and tear on the joints in the neck. Combat this by incorporating thoracic spine mobility exercises into your routine.
Upper-crossed syndrome is a muscle imbalance pattern involving the muscles of the upper back, neck, and shoulders. Gamers often develop this syndrome due to prolonged periods of forward head posture and rounded shoulders. To address this, focus on strengthening the weak muscles (such as the rhomboids and lower traps) and stretching the tight ones (like the chest and upper traps).
Regular postural awareness and correction exercises can significantly reduce the risk of upper-crossed syndrome.
Prioritizing your physical well-being while gaming is essential for a long and enjoyable gaming experience. By understanding these common neck injuries and implementing preventive measures, you can continue to immerse yourself in the gaming world without the discomfort of neck pain!