With more consoles and games coming out each year, Americans of all ages are finding relaxation, competition and fun in the world of videogames. According to this infographic, the average age of today's gamer is 34. While it's fantastic that more people are getting involved in gaming, it's important to understand that gaming can come with repetitive stress injuries if you don't game ergonomically. Combine an aging spine with poor posture, and you have a recipe for back pain that can quickly turn chronic. In this article, you'll learn how to enjoy gaming safely while still caring for your back.
Start With the Basics: Your Seating
Because most people play games to relax, it can be tempting to take the laptop to bed or curl up on the couch with a controller. While these positions may feel comfortable, you're setting your spine up for pain if you stay there too long.
Instead, buy yourself a good ergonomic office or gaming chair with support for your arms and back. Of particular importance are lumbar support and arm rests that place your arms in line with your keyboard or desk. You want your armrests to be just an inch or so lower than your keyboard tray or desk surface, not far below or far above, as this will cause strain on your arms, shoulders and neck.
If you do decide to curl up with a device, do so in a way that provides support for your back. Using a lap desk or pillow to elevate your keyboard a bit is the first step, says Don Chaffin, from the University of Michigan's Center for Ergonomics. Then, sit against a hard surface like a headboard or wall to support your spine and shoulders. Use a lumbar support pillow, or arrange your own pillows to properly support your lower back.
Alternatively, consider purchasing an adjustable bed frame; tilt the head up when you want to work, and down when you want to sleep.
Always Stretch Before and During Play
Believe it or not, hardcore gaming is, in fact, a sort of sport. And that means you should stretch before you play, during play, and even after play whenever possible. Stretching your back, arms, and legs helps to loosen up your muscles, warming them up and ensuring that your body is in the ideal state to handle repetitive motions and postures.
For your back, start by laying down on a hard floor in a supine position. Stay like this for about five minutes--the position will gently stretch out sore muscles and extend your spine.
Then, try a knee hug stretch. Bring your knees up to your chest and gently squeeze them towards you. Tuck your chin in, and make an arch shape with your back. Slowly, release the position and return to supine again.
Next, try a supine twist. Lay on your back and bring your feet in towards your hips, so your knees are pointing upward. Tilt your knees to the left while keeping your back pressed against the floor. Turn your head in the opposite direction for a nice, gentle stretch that helps to unkink any muscles directly along the spine. Make sure to switch your knees and head to the opposite direction to stretch both sides.
A quick, important note: only extend your legs to a comfortable level when doing this exercise. If the side of your legs doesn't reach the floor, don't try to force them down. Never push past pain or burning feelings.
Finally, take breaks every hour you play. Get up, walk around and try these stretches again if you can. If you start to experience pain, it may be time to put the controller down and take an extended break. For aching muscles after long play sessions, try a hot bath with two cups of epsom salts--the magnesium will relax your muscles, while the warm water is soothing.
As a gamer, it's extra-important that your back stay in excellent condition. Degeneration, weak muscles and even repetitive stress can cause herniated discs and arthritis later in life, something that can cause problems with many areas of the body. Keeping your back and body comfortable will ensure that you can enjoy your favorite hobby long into the future. For questions about back pain while gaming, or to seek an assessment for ongoing issues with the back, speak with your chiropractor today.
You can also visit sites like http://cochiropractor.com to learn more about treating back pain.