Why Playing Video Games is Ruining Your Health

Why Playing Video Games is Ruining Your Health

by Dr. Tanya Reynolds, DC

on Jun 29th, 2017

By the age of 21, the average young person has accumulated roughly 10,000 hours of gaming.

There are currently more than half a billion people worldwide who play computer or video games for at least an hour a day, according to Jane McGonigal, PhD, game designer and TED Speaker. This statistic especially applies to teenagers and young adults; by the age of 21, the average young person has accumulated roughly 10,000 hours of gaming, which is less time than they spend in class throughout all of middle and high school—if they have perfect attendance.

While Ms. McGonigal is a proponent of gaming and argues that playing can increase a player’s quality of life, medical professionals are seeing the other side of the story. As multiple hours are racked up in the same “gaming posture” day in and day out, young men and women are ending up with their bodies contorted and bowed over.

Postural syndrome refers to anyone with rounded shoulders, a hyper-extended neck and a hunched back, and is one of the number one reasons patients seek out chiropractic care. These patients are slouchers, and they look physically smaller than they are. While the pain they experience is not related to any significant damage or trauma to the tissues, if it’s not corrected when the patients are young, they’ll be prone to more of a hunchback as they age, and possibly lots of other issues such as breathing problems, headaches and arthritis. Furthermore, gaming can lead to repetitive motion injuries like tendinitis and carpal tunnel, which also benefit from being caught early and treated with chiropractic care.

Why Proper Posture Matters

Posture plays an incredibly important role in our overall health because it affects muscle efficiency, breathing, mobility and injury prevention. When we have poor posture, our muscles have to work harder to hold our bodies up, and we increase our risk for musculoskeletal injury.

This is why “gaming posture”—which results from extended sitting in front of TV and computer consoles or leaning down to look at our cellphones for endless hours each day—does so much damage over time. Basically, the muscles on the front side of the body are shortened, while those on the back side of the body are lengthened and subsequently weakened. This means our muscles have to work harder to hold our bodies upright.

On the other hand, having good posture—sitting up tall with shoulders back and an open chest—allows us to perform at optimal physical capacity. Our muscles work most efficiently in this position, when our chins are tucked and our spines are stacked, allowing the wrist, forearm and hand muscles have to work the least to accomplish movements during prolonged gaming. In addition, more efficiency means increased muscular endurance, which increases the time it takes for your body to fatigue.

Not only this, but better posture has been shown to maintain self-esteem, reduce negative emotions, and increase positive mood, according to one 2015 study. The research further suggests that maintaining healthy posture may be a simple behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress.

Steps You Can Take Today

Gaming, like most things, is best when practiced in moderation. Changing positions often and taking breaks to stretch and move around is crucial.

While sitting with your legs at a 90 degree angle to your body is far superior to leaning forward and looking down, a 2006 study found that leaning back at a 135 degree angle causes the least strain on the lumbar spine.

Consider also adjusting the position of your television or computer monitor—raising these even a few inches can do wonders for your neck.

Doing exercises to counter a slumped posture is both helpful and necessary: moves like the bench press, dead lift, and seated row will be the most effective for reversing the damage. Stretching your back on an exercise ball allows the spine to stay flexible and well nourished. Doing this allows blood to feed the discs of the spine and provides a path for fluid to flow in and out of each disc. Specifically, lean back over the ball and roll forward until your chest is at the apex of the ball. Extend your arms up over your head, reaching toward the floor. Roll forward, backward and in small circles.

Remember, however, that everything begins with a healthy spinal alignment. If you’re exercising and building muscle on a crooked frame, you’re building it incorrectly. All of the above suggestions will improve your posture, health and immunity if you are receiving regular chiropractic treatment. Otherwise you will simply be training your muscles to hold your spine in its slouched position.

Lastly, give our In8Love posture glasses a try to reduce neck strain while reading, working on your laptop or viewing your smartphone or tablet. These innovative glasses turn your view to a downward 90-degree angle while allowing you to maintain healthy neck alignment. Call the office at (310) 477-3335 for purchasing information.

Right now at In8Love, we’re running a “gaming posture special” including a complimentary preliminary exam, and x-rays, if necessary, for only $79. Bring in your kids, teens, and even yourself, if you’re a gamer (we promise we won’t judge), and take your first steps on the path to optimum health.

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