'Tis the season or 'tis always the season for video games!
After the holidays, I have had a handful of patients with increased back pain. They complain of tightness in their lower back, hamstrings (the back of the thighs), and hip flexors (the front of the thighs). I ask them, "What have you been doing differently?" Their answer is usually, "Well nothing really strenuous. I have just been sitting around playing video games for hours at a time." And there you have it! That's where their back pain is coming from. Due to the fact, that the cord to the controller is very short, you must sit on the floor in front of the tv. This puts the body in a position of poor posture and if sustained for periods of >10 minutes will cause tightness of the muscles and joints of the shoulders, back, knees, and hips.
Video games, just like being on the computer, can be time consuming and somewhat addicting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information received from the American Time Use Survey revealed, in 2008 "individuals ages 15 to 19 read for an average of 0.2 hour (10 minutes)per weekend day while spending 1.0 hour playing games or using a computer for leisure".
Amazing how times have changed. What did we do before video games and computers? I remember playing manhunt outside with my friends all day only to come inside to eat dinner. Unfortunately, life for most kids isn't like that anymore.
Playing video or computer games is setting our young population up for poor posture, which will eventually lead to injury in their future. Here are some suggestions on how to prevent back pain and other injuries in your future.
1. First, limit your playing time. Make a point NOT to sit in front of the tv playing video games for hours. It is not good for your posture, your eyes, your nutrition, or your well-being.
2. Second, get a "video rocker" also known as a "gaming chair". These are somewhat ergonomically correct (well anything is better than sitting on the floor in indian style, right?) chair that is made specifically for gaming on the floor. However, you must still be aware of your posture while sitting in this chair also. Trying not to slouch forward. Tuck your chin back and pinch your shoulder blades together.
3. Third, stretch your muscles after you have been sitting for a while. My suggestions are to stretch your hamstrings (at the back of your thighs), lower back muscles, and pectoralis (chest) muscles for at least 30 seconds for 3 sets each.
4. Last, but not least, consult with a professional on your posture and how to improve it. A physical therapist or physician will be able to look at your posture and advise you whether your posture requires improvement and specific techniques on how to improve it.
If you can't seem to pull yourself away from the tv then try to break your gaming up by using a Wii or Wii Fit. These video games will keep your muscles active and you burn calories while you play. Remember, the Wii is a very dynamic game and it is very similar to a gym work out or playing a recreational sport. Warming up for 5-10 minutes beforehand and stretching will help prevent injury. You don't want to end up in Wii-hab. =)
- Dr. Sara M. Velez
- NJ, United States
- Dr. Sara M. Velez completed her graduate studies at Seton Hall University where she obtained her Doctor of Physical Therapy and Master of Science in Athletic Training. She is licensed to practice in NY and NJ. Her specialties are sports and orthopedic physical therapy and she has a particular interest in working with football players, golfers, and overhead athletes. Dr. Velez has on-field clinical experience with high school, Division I-III college, and professional level sports. Dr. Velez was a Varsity high school and college level athlete in Track & Field. She is a new mom.