Neck and back pain are common complaints among gamers. After all, gamers can spend hours upon hours hunched over tables, oftentimes with poor posture.
These aren’t just minor inconveniences, however. Research in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders says musculoskeletal pain during adolescence could very well continue into adulthood to become a permanent affliction. In worst-case scenarios, prolonged nerve irritation in the neck and back could lead to permanent disabilities!
Thankfully, avoiding neck and back pain can be done with a few simple adjustments. Let’s take a closer look below.
The root of neck and back pain
When we sit, the lower part of the pelvis absorbs our weight while gravity pulls our bodies toward the ground. Similarly, the cervical muscles in the back of the neck contract to hold the head up. This builds tension in the more delicate parts of our bodies.
When we maintain these positions, these parts become inflexible, and the collagen that supports our ligaments and tendons hardens. That is why players of sedentary games are particularly vulnerable to these afflictions. Whether you’re a pro or amateur player, the nature of poker and chess requires that you concentrate and sit down for consistently long periods.
In the long run, the discs in the vertebrae might start losing their cushioning because of the constant grinding. This can result in chronic back and neck pain.
Neck and back pain solutions
Sitting isn’t inherently harmful, but it's important to recognize bad habits. When we focus on healthier habits, it's easier to reach a compromise where we can enjoy games without fear of physical pain.
Maintain a healthy weight
Sedentary lifestyles tend to be associated with weight gain, with previous evidence in Current Obesity Reports finding a two-fold increase in obesity per hour per day with traditional seated video games. This excess weight can pull the pelvis forward and further strain the lower back, as pro poker player Bryn Kenney discovered. Kenney gained 230 pounds after late-night poker games, which involved him lounging in his chair for long hours with only fast food to sustain his body which only exacerbated his back pain.
By focusing on proteins and green vegetables, cutting out alcohol, and hitting the gym, he was able to get back to a healthy weight of 190 pounds. This drastically improved his body pain and long-term health, and he continues to be active in his poker career while minding his diet every day.
Fix your posture
Chess players’ tendencies to crane their necks too far forward can lead to a 30 per cent loss of lung capacitors, as Norwegian chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen quotes from the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. To minimize this, the Norwegian consciously rests his lower back against his chair so it retains a natural curve during matches.
He also fixes his knees slightly apart at the edge of the seat, plans his feet firmly on the ground, and leans forward at about a 75-degree angle. These positions are basic principles that medical professionals would similarly recommend.
It’s never too healthy to maintain one posture for too long, however. So don’t forget to shift positions and stretch. As we’ve discussed in 10 Best Exercises and Stretches, stretching will loosen up your muscles and improve the blood flow to the problematic area. This will avoid the hardening of the collagen in your ligaments and tendons.
Invest in proper gear
Prevention is always better than cure. If you're planning on playing for a long time, it's best to invest in gear like an ergonomic chair and orthopedic pillow. Our orthopedic pillows at Kanuda are designed to align the C-shaped cervical spine and head, in order to provide therapeutic relief during sleep to any gamer complaining of neck and back pain. This ensures more comfortable games in the long run.
When we proactively take care of our bodies, we'll be rewarded with a sharper mind and happier well-being, and more enriching playing time.