Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, the Pain of Esports Players
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Being a successful professional is the result of the joint body and brain work, and in this case, esports is no exception. No matter how smart a player is, if they want to show the highest level of pro play, they need to take care of their 'tools' because our hands and fingers are quite fragile and can easily be injured. Therefore, the issue of preventing injuries and diseases is becoming more and more urgent.
Esports players grow up, but only a few think about potential and specific health problems of our sphere. This applies to scoliosis, kyphosis, knee problems, lower back pains, and so on. But the most important places of esports players' are hands, fingers, and wrists.
In this interview, you will learn about the dangers of carpal tunnel syndrome, how to treat it, and, most importantly, how to avoid it.
Good afternoon! Before starting the conversation, would you please introduce yourself?
Surely. Buyanov Oleg, Chief Medical Officer at the Aksis Medical Center, which I founded in 2018. I'm a member of the Ukrainian Association of Osteopaths and Chiropractors and the Ukrainian Association of Pain Study, an anesthesiologist, and spine doctor.
In any professional sport, there are health risks and so-called professional injuries. The main disease of an esports player is considered to be carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). How often do people contact you with this one?
Unfortunately, this pathology is pretty common. Three to four people come to us with carpal tunnel syndrome every week.
For the past six months, most people have been at home in quarantine, and there are many more people working remotely. Has the number of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome increased?
It cannot be said with complete certainty that quarantine has changed the situation. You need to understand that degenerative diseases (which the tunnel syndrome, osteochondrosis, arthrosis are) primarily associate with a person's lifestyle and health ignorance. At the moment, it is too early to say how the quarantine has affected the trend.
Okay, could you identify a specific risk group? Who is more susceptible to this disease than others?
First of all, the people who work with their hands, performing basic actions with their fingers and wrists: hairdressers, cooks, doctors, gardeners. Any job where you need to squeeze the hand for a long time or hold the tool firmly endangers humans' hands. The second category of potential patients are people working on computers. The fact is that they are forced to hold the hand in one position: the mouse. Because of this, their elbow often hangs off the edge of the table, and the load is transferred to the forearm. Few people think about organizing a workplace. There are two solutions to this problem: either a special table with a keyboard suitable for one's height or high-positioned armrests that prevent arms from hanging.
Will this completely solve the problem, or will it only partially reduce the strain on your hands?
Of course, this is only about reducing the load. The fact is that our entire body, from the lower leg to the neck (including the hands), does not like prolonged static loads.
Is there a conservative treatment for Carpal Tunnel syndrome, or each patient with such a diagnosis goes will end up in the surgery room?
It all depends on how often the patient will see a doctor. Usually, people delay it to that stage when conservative treatment no longer helps, and the doctor is forced to set up surgery for the patient. We must not forget that this disease has a very high chance of recurrence. In the future, people who underwent surgery may return with the same problems since they have not changed their lifestyle.
If a person with CTS will ignore the problem and won't visit doctors, what is the risk?
Over time, the wrist becomes ineffective. CTS begins with a feeling of "goosebumps" and numbness; then you'll lose coordination, weakness occurs. It comes to the point that the patient is unable to clench fingers and hold a cup of tea or a pencil in hand. Accordingly, the main "consequence" of the disease for such a patient will be enormous discomfort in everyday life.
Speaking about esports players — they can spend 11-12 hours a day at the computer. How quickly can CTS develop in this case?
It's about the individual characteristics of each person: the structure of the connective tissue, or rather its rigidity. It is worth mentioning an important aspect: the intensity of squeezing the mouse (and in stressful moments, this will happen quite often); in this regard, the disease progresses. It is also important what kind of life an esports player has, where does one go after training, do they exercise during breaks?
How can people help themselves to prevent CTS? What should they do?
The main prevention method is exercising. Most often, tunnel syndrome is associated with overstrain of the hand's flexor muscles, those that run along the inner side of the forearm and pass through the carpal tunnel of the tendons. Accordingly, the release of tension from the flexor muscles will prevent the development of pathology.
There are a lot of exercises for stretching the antagonists of the flexor muscles; you can easily find them on the Internet. Speaking specifically about the "devices," there are expanders, which perfectly relieve tension from the flexor muscles.
Another method is rubbing the skin in the flexor muscles and forearms. This will improve blood flow and will have a positive effect on microcirculation in the carpal tunnel area.
There is a ligament inside it, which is compressed from constant tension. This leads to the fact that the neurovascular bundle is compressed. Rub the ligament along the forearm. Warming ointments will not be superfluous since warming up the muscle leads to its relaxation and also increases its tone. Applicators are also very popular and are sold in any pharmacy.
If we talk about additional devices that esports players could buy, it is worth mentioning massagers and percussion devices. The latter, by the way, have a stimulating effect on the forearm's muscles, relaxes them very quickly, and develop the channel of the wrist joint.
We must not forget that the results are very important for players; their career and success directly depend on them, which means it is worth working on the mobility and reaction of the hand. Meaning, it depends on hand and forearm innervation. This can be done by rehabilitation therapists or physical therapy doctors: massage, vibration procedures, enhancing the nerves conduction with electrical or magnetic stimulation. Shock wave therapy is also very popular in Europe. All of the above methods increase the functionality of the hand, and players, in addition to things that we can do at home, can once a week turn to specialists for such procedures, which, in theory, will increase his effectiveness.
How often should it be done?
The more often, the better, or you should be guided by hand fatigue: if you feel that your hand has begun to grow numb and tired, you should take a break, change position, and even better: do exercises in order to increase the blood supply to the hand and forearm.
But in any case, I would recommend contacting a doctor so that they can correct your prevention methods, showing you how to do the exercises correctly, and at the same time, assess the health of your hands and arms.
If parents see that their child spends a lot of time in front of the computer, should they worry about CTS from a young age?
Children rarely get carpal tunnel syndrome problems; their ligaments have greater elasticity, which gives a kind of "immunity." But spending a lot of time at the computer is, well, harmful to the child, so it is worth thinking about limiting it. In my practice, I have not met children with CTS, and if we talk about age, most often, my patients are people over 30 years old.
If a person suspects to have CTS, which doctors should they contact first?
Neuropathologists and orthopedic traumatologists. In Europe, physical therapy is quite popular; its essence lies in the fact that it is not pills and a conservative method that come to the fore, but exercises and procedures, which first of all will correct the motor apparatus, which means that the effectiveness of such treatment will be higher.
What about people who went through surgeries because of CTS? How long does it take to recover?
It all depends on the stage at which the person was operated on and whether there was atrophy*. The longer a person has suffered discomfort in the hand, the more difficult rehabilitation will be. The recovery process can take as long as one month or several years.
Thank you! We hope that as many people as possible will read it and think about their health.
Take care of yourself and your health, and do not forget that the best way to fight any disease is to prevent it.
As you understood, not only esports players suffer from the described problem. Fortunately, there are ways to fight the disease, so we strongly recommend monitoring your shape and prevent health issues. Perhaps, sometimes it is not about buying the most expensive device to feel better but to give your elbow some rest or just take a more comfortable position.
Take care of yourself, because no matter how great at games you are, your hands should not hurt.