You may not experience back pain if you’re actually out and about looking for Pokémon. However, spending hours working your way through World of Warcraft, helping your buddies win Grand Theft Auto heist challenges on Xbox, or looking down at your smartphone while playing Candy Crush Saga can contribute to spine-related aches and pains. If you or your kids are spending endless hours hunching, sitting, or leaning to one side or the other playing various games, Santa Monica spine surgery experts suggest keeping these tips in mind to prevent distracting back pain.
Take Regular Game Breaks
It’s not easy to schedule breaks with any regularity when you’re trying to level up or boost your arsenal of weapons. Still, hours of sitting can irritate spine-supporting muscles. When you do reach a point where you can take a break, get up and move around. For the times when you can’t take a break, try to shift positions every 10 to 15 minutes or so. Alternating between sitting and standing positions can also ease pressure on the lower back.
Watch Your Posture
You may not think posture matters when all your attention is focused on the game you’re playing. However, you’ll notice the effects of hours of leaning forward or holding your neck down when sore muscles around your lower or upper spine become inflamed and contribute to pain later. Mind your posture as you play by:
- Keeping your shoulders aligned with your hips and head
- Using a game controller holder or controller stand instead of holding it down and craning your neck
- Investing in an ergonomic gaming chair
Get Some Real-World Exercise
Gaming may be mostly in the mind, but it can take a toll on the body over time. The perfect way to counteract this effect is to mix gaming with real-world exercise. Focus on your core muscle groups to give your spine sufficient direct and indirect support. Even regular walking can help you maintain the circulation of essential nutrients to spinal tissues and discs. Doing stretching exercises during game breaks can also be beneficial. Try these simple exercises:
- Neck flexes, stretches, or extensions
- Shoulder rotations
- Sideways torso turns
- Seated chair hamstring stretches
Power Up on Healthy Snacks
It’s easy to get into the habit of grabbing chips, soda, or handy finger foods as you make your way through the various tasks on the screen in front of you. However, salty, sugary, or high-fat foods can contribute to inflammation that irritates nerves near the spine. You may not make the connection at first since nerve-related pain is often felt elsewhere in the arms, shoulders, legs, or thighs. Instead, keep healthy snacks within your reach if you need quick fuel, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. If you need healthy snack ideas, try these:
- Celery sticks
- Pumpkin seeds
- Oven-baked chips
- Cucumber slices
If you’re an avid gamer, heading outside now and then to hunt down Pokémon might not be such a bad idea since you’ll be getting some exercise while doing it, which is a good thing for your back. Interactive games like Just Dance can also be a fun way to get some exercise. If you do start experiencing spine pain that isn’t going away with some changes in your gaming habits, hit the pause button and see what your doctor has to say.
In cases of severe chronic back pain, your doctor may recommend seeing a specialist about options for minimally invasive back surgery. Santa Monica patients can rely on the expert surgeons at The Spine Institute to find the most effective solution for alleviating their discomfort. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.