For many adults, gaming is a beloved hobby and stress reliever. But hunching over a controller or keyboard for hours can aggravate neck pain and strain. The good news is that not all games contribute to neck issues. With deliberate game selections and smart playing strategies, gaming can actually strengthen neck muscles, improve posture, and provide drug-free pain relief.
How Gaming Causes Neck Pain
Common neck strain and overuse issues stem from:
- Sustained awkward neck postures like looking down at a handheld or tilting head up toward a TV. Keeping the neck flexed or extended strains muscles and compresses vertebrae.
- Slouching or hunching shoulders for long periods compresses spinal disks and stresses surrounding soft tissues.
- Repetitively tapping fingers and thumbs to control games contributes to tendinitis in hands, wrists, and arms.
- Holding tensed positions without movement allows muscles to tighten and weakens joint stabilizers.
Choose Games That Move You
Recent years have seen an explosion of active movement-based video game options offering new ways to prevent and reduce neck pain:
- Improved posture – Playing active games trains you to hold proper upright alignment with neck lengthened. This transfers to daily posture.
- Increased mobility – Full body motion strengthens joints and muscles in the neck, shoulders, and back for better flexibility and support.
- Muscle relaxation – Exercise releases endorphins that block pain signals causing muscles to unclench.
- Range of motion – Coordinated movements take neck joints through full range of motion to prevent stiffening.
- Core activation – Active play engages core muscles crucial for stabilizing the neck and upper back.
Best Games for Neck Pain Relief
Today’s top movement-based games for easing neck pain include:
- Just Dance – Mimic flashy dance moves to pop music. Full body participation with no controller needed.
- Beat Saber – Slice through flying boxes with VR lightsabers as music plays. Fast reflexes engage the body.
- Ring Fit Adventure – Adventure/exercising hybrid has you jog in place, do yoga, and engage the core. Low to high intensity options.
- Wii Sports – Tennis and boxing games involve turning and swinging motions that mobilize neck muscles.
- Fruit Ninja – Energetically slice fruit with sweeping arm motions to engage stiff neck muscles.
- Dance Central – Follow on-screen avatars and mimic fun dance routines. Available for Kinect.
- BoxVr – Punch, jab, and squat to dodge incoming boxes in this VR cardio workout.
Healthy Gaming Habits
To leverage gaming for neck pain relief:
- Always warm up with gentle stretches before playing motion games. Cool down and stretch after.
- Set a timer to take movement breaks every 30 minutes during long sedentary gaming sessions.
- Maintain upright posture with ears stacked over shoulders. Avoid hunching forward.
- Position your screen at eye level. Look straight ahead not down or up.
- Use a supportive chair. If gaming on the couch, sit upright.
- Adjust camera angle and positioning to keep motions comfortable. Avoid overextending.
- Stay hydrated and breathe deeply to avoid muscle fatigue and tension.
- Stop and rest if any movements cause pain. Adjust form or switch to less strenuous games.
- Consult a physical therapist to design a balanced exercise routine including gaming, stretches, and ergonomic adjustments.
When played mindfully, movement-based video games can provide an enjoyable form of physical activity to strengthen your neck. Combine gaming with rest, proper stretching, and ergonomics for a holistic pain relief plan. With a strategic approach, gaming can be a fun way to keep neck muscles flexible and pain-free.