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A Gamer’s Guide to Ergonomics

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The life of a gamer isn’t all that difficult. At its core, gaming is just an endless cycle of buying games and playing them. With that being said, there are a few frustrations that can crop up every once in a while, and nothing spoils a gaming session faster than a hurting back or fatigue.

With these simple tips and tricks, you can stave off some of the more aggravating aspects of gaming and restore your sessions to what they ought to have been in the first place: fun and engaging.

Sit Right and Live Longer

Don’t forget about your posture while gaming. Something as simple as a comfortable gaming chair can be the difference between relaxation and chronic aches. For computer gamers, there’s a real affliction called “computer fatigue” and you ought to heed these tips for fighting it.

Posture has an important role in muscle efficiency, breathing, mobility and injury prevention. When we have poor posture, our muscles have to work harder to hold our bodies up, we have more labored breathing, our overall mobility is affected and we increase our risk for several musculoskeletal injuries. Let’s talk in the context of gaming.

So, one reason why posture is important is because it allows us gamers to minimize the work these postural muscles need to exert throughout our gaming session to reduce the risk for injury. 

First, having good posture – sitting up tall with an open chest and neutral spine positioning – allows us to perform at optimal physical capacity. Our muscles work most effectively and efficiently with good “gaming posture” which basically means that the wrist, forearm and hand muscles have to work the least to accomplish the typing, button pressing and mouse movements we need during competitive or prolonged gaming.

More efficient also means increased time-to-fatigue. To understand this, think of our muscles as having stamina bars. When we have good posture, it takes longer for the stamina bar to deplete (dictated by our muscular endurance). But when we have poor posture… the it takes more stamina per mouse click, which means that the stamina bar depletes more quickly. Once it depletes, it begins to strain the muscle and cause some discomfort. We are unable to perform optimally if our focus is detracted from the game. This is quite common in higher levels of competitive play and often times it can unconsciously affect our motor coordination – So maybe if you have been inconsistent after extended periods of play… it may not just be that you are out of stamina… but your coordination may be slightly impaired as well.

Secondly, better posture has been shown to improve cognitive function through improved physiological function. As I had mentioned above, posture is directly related to breathing. In the same way, better posture maximizes the efficiency of our cardiopulmonary system (heart, lungs, circulation) which has been shown to improve confidence, makes us less risk-averse and facilitates positive thinking.

Just a random fact – The neuroendocrine profile of higher testosterone and lower cortisol (the stress hormone) has been consistently linked to increased cognitive function and confidence.

Posture in our Gaming Chairs: How to sit

Just like smash, it’s all about the neutral. Ayeee

Ok but in all seriousness. It really is about being neutral. In the context of biomechanics, the neutral position is the position for the joints in which there is the least amount of load placed on the supporting tissues (ligaments, muscles, tendons). The positive consequence of this is our muscles will take longer to fatigue and we are at a lower risk of injury.

The Big 3 Regions we must consider when sitting are…

Mid back and Neck

So for the mid-back just remember “chest-up” and imagine that someone is pulling a string attached at your sternum up and out. Most people who try to do this tend to compensate with their lower back (increased arch) or retract their shoulder blades. This is a subtle but very important motion to develop. An easy way to limit your lower back from aching is to brace your stomach (imaging how you would brace your stomach if someone was going to punch you in the gut)

Lower back and Pelvis

Just as the thoracic spine is the foundation for the neck and shoulders, the pelvis is the foundation for the lower back and hips. What’s convenient is that we can utilize the pelvis to achieve neutral positioning for both structures.

Think of the pelvis as a bucket of water. If you tilt it forward, the water will spill out forward. This also consequently arches your lower back excessively. If you tilt it backwards, the water will spill out behind you. This also consequently rounds your back excessively. The idea is for us to keep the water from spilling at all, right in the center. This keeps our back in the neutral position of a slight arch.

Shoulder Blades

As we mentioned above, the position of the shoulder blade is affected first by the position of our mid back or thoracic spine. After we set our mid-back, we must appropriately positioning our shoulder blades to minimize risk for injury at our shoulders.

Got it! So sit right and game longer!

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