Can Gaming Cause Back Pain?
Gaming is a fun activity and whoever gets engaged with it once can hardly refrain from it despite the health issues it causes. Yes, sadly this extremely enjoyable thing does cause certain health issues, lower back pain being the most common among them. In fact, lower back pain is the number one reason for doctor’s visits as well as time off from work in the USA. But gaming is not the only cause of this ailment. To understand what makes gaming cause lower back pain, we need to know certain things including the anatomy of lower back.
Anatomy of Lower Back
First thing to know is that the region of lower back is called the lumbar spine. The vertebrae in this region are denoted as from L1 to L5, where L denotes lumbar.
The base bone of the spinal column, which is known as the sacrum, articulates with the last lumbar vertebra L5. Despite technically not being the part of the lower back proper the sacrum is almost always included in the discussions about lower back (technically the sacrum is a part of the pelvic complex).
Apart from the sacrum, the following are the non-lumbar bones that you should know about regarding the discussion about low back pain:
Coccyx: The “tail-bone”
Pelvis: Two halves of the pelvis that articulate with each other (in the front) and the sacrum (in the back).
Ilium: The upper back part of your pelvis, each ilium attaches to the sacrum in joints on either side called the sacroiliac joints.
Ischium: The lower part of your pelvis. These are the parts on which you sit (& hence they are often called ‘sits bones’.)
Pubis: The front part of your pelvis. These bones are attached to each other to form what is called pubic symphysis.
Femur: The thigh bone
Although there are many different muscles in the lower back, the following are the most common among them that undergo pain and dysfunction.
Erector spinae: A group of muscles that are powerful and keep the spine uprightly positioned. These muscles also assist in lateral flexion, extension and rotation of the spine.
Hip flexors: A group of muscles that attach the thighs to the tibia in front of the pelvis (shin bone; the rectus femoris muscle is part of the quadriceps muscle group).
How does Gaming Cause Lower Back Pain
The cause of lower back pain from gaming is different in different individuals. It may also affect different tissue(s). Each tissue can present unique symptoms. However, sometimes different types of tissues show similar or overlapping symptoms.
It’s important that your physician truly knows the anatomy, physiology of spine, and the nature of video games in order to correctly diagnose your ailment.
Muscle tone refers to a muscle’s level of contraction or electrical impulse from the nervous system. Resting tone means that the muscle is not contracting and a muscle at rest will feel soft to the touch and loose.
Hypertonicity means increased resting tone. Thus, a muscle is called hypertonic when it undergoes low-level contraction (elevated electrical impulse from the nervous system) absence of conscious control. A hypertonic muscle feels tense and firm to the touch.
A spasm on the other hand is a full unconscious muscle contraction. This is different than hypertonicity and will cause muscle pain.
Trigger points refer to the ‘knots’ in the muscle. They are called so because when stimulated (e.g. by pressing, contracting, stretching) they cause pain elsewhere in the body, called referred pain.
Ligament and Joint Capsule
Although uncommon in reference to gaming injuries, the ligament and joint capsules of the lumbar spine can be injured because of trauma. Following are relative measures, when defining the time frame of an illness.
Acute: short-term, within 2 weeks
Subacute: mid-term, in the range of 2 to 6 weeks
Chronic: long-term, 6 weeks or more
Prevention and Rehabilitation
Lower back pain from gaming will often be caused due to prolonged (poor) posture which may further cause muscular imbalance, hypertonicity and/or trigger points and joint fixation. Thus, the most important thing you can do for prevention and rehabilitation of lower back pain from gaming is to monitor your posture.
Other techniques of relieving stress and improving lower back pain from gaming include yoga asanas, chiropractic care, massage and manual therapy, physical therapy and low back pain Exercises.
So, you can see that gaming in itself is not responsible for lower back pain, but wrong posture is. Just take care of your posture while enjoying gaming. Still, if you undergo pain, take the necessary measures to treat it. Happy gaming!