A guide to the ergonomics of PC games

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You can injure yourself while playing video games, and I’m not just talking about hitting a coffee table with your shin while using a VR headset. (Although I to have accidentally hit a shelf in VR, and it hurt.) The seemingly neutral act of sitting in a chair, staring at a monitor, and using a mouse and keyboard or controller can, over time , cause pain and discomfort – and even cause repetitive strain injuries.

With the help of the sponsor AMD, which has supported all of our ergonomics articles, we’ve spent the last few months answering questions and researching ways to make PC gaming safer and healthier. We’ll continue to look at this important topic, but for now, here are all the tips we’ve collected on how to set up your desktop and avoid hurting yourself while playing PC games:

Create an ergonomic PC gaming setup

An illustration of a PC gamer sitting at his desk.

(Image credit: Illustration by Federica Litrico.)

If you are using a seated desk, we highly recommend getting a height adjustable desk chair. Adjustable armrests are also great, but at the very least you want to be able to move your chair up and down so that you can line up your eye line and elbows with your monitor and desk in a comfortable way.

Here are some basic rules to follow when setting up your chair and monitor:

  • You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor. If you can’t, consider getting a stool or platform to put under your desk.
  • The top of your monitor should be approximately at eye level. In other words, you shouldn’t have to search up to see anything. You also shouldn’t need to lean forward. Having your monitor about an arm’s length from your eyes is usually a good thing.
  • Your elbows should be at the same height as your desk and bent about 90 degrees when using your mouse and keyboard.
  • See also our advice on lumbar support cushions, wrist rests, and headrests.

For more tips on setting up your office, read our guide to sitting with good posture. Important advice in this article comes from physical therapist Dr. Caitlin McGee, who says “your best posture is your next posture.” What she does mean is that while there is a recommended posture (meaning you shouldn’t sit in a way that strain your neck or back), it can cause more pain. is to sit in exactly the same position for too long. It’s good to move around, which can mean getting up and moving away from your PC every now and then.

For more tips, here is 9 easy ways to make your office healthier and more comfortable.

Here is finally our guide to setting up your mouse for the best experience.

Wrist pain: what causes it and what to do about it

Illustration of wrist pain.

(Image credit: Federica Litrico)

A common problem that PC gamers may experience is acute or chronic pain in the wrist. It’s no surprise that we spend a lot of time using our wrists.

There are three categories of problems to consider: muscles, tendons and nerves. A trigger point injury, for example, involves a “knot” of muscle. Tendonitis, however, is an inflamed or irritated tendon. Finally, nerve compression, which is usually caused by another condition, can lead to numbness or tingling. Dr. McGee has broken down all the common causes of wrist pain for us in Ask a nurse: why is my wrist hurting?

The other question is: what should I do about it? If you experience severe pain in your wrist or pain that has been around for a long time or is getting worse, you may want to see a doctor or occupational therapist. If the discomfort is milder, however, changing your habits may be enough to help you avoid the pain in the long run.

Consider the illustration above: you might not think that you are holding your mouse in the awkward position on the left, but a lot of people bend their wrists without realizing it. Every now and then, stop what you’re doing and watch your wrist. Are you holding it straight? If not, can you adjust the way you sit to make it easier to sit still?

To treat and prevent pain, Dr. McGee has also recommends wrist exercises and stretches.

Other articles on health and ergonomics

An illustration of a PC mouse with pills.

(Image credit: Illustration by Michael Fitzhywel.)

What is the Health Kit?

Health Kit is PC Gamer’s health, ergonomics and wellness coverage, which is currently produced with support from AMD. Throughout 2020 we will be posting more health articles and videos with expert advice.

Recently, we spoke to a doctor about the “nootropics” marketed to esports viewers, supplements believed to improve the user’s focus and reaction time. Are they effective? Are they safe? The answer, unsurprisingly but important, is that they probably aren’t effective, and we don’t know if they’re safe. Lily Jody’s article to learn more about what’s in these supplements and why a doctor doesn’t recommend them.

Speaking of esports, have you ever wondered what it’s like to train with a professional team? In September, Katie shared an overview of Team Liquid’s training center in Utrecht. While energy drinks and junk food are strongly associated with games and esports (we’ll never shake the Doritos and Dew thing), nutrition plays an important role – there are two chefs on site. Physical fitness is also emphasized.

These are things Dr. McGee talks about in 5 ways to avoid hurting yourself while playing on PC. Adjusting your posture and your desk setup can help, but if you want to improve your gaming performance, getting enough sleep and exercise can make a big difference – it will be a lot more effective than hammering energy drinks, at least. less.

“When it comes to things that make you better at whatever you do, be it soccer, CS: GO or rock climbing, 70% of your performance improvement comes from consistently mastering the basics. McGee explains. “These basics are things like getting adequate sleep, proper nutrition and hydration, and regular training to meet the specific demands of your particular activity.”

We will complete this article as we publish more articles on health and ergonomics by the end of 2020 and until 2021. In the meantime, don’t forget to take breaks!

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