Since the invention of video games, there has been plenty of talk about how unhealthy and addictive they can be. While that can be true in some cases, the fact is that, when played in moderation, video games can actually be healthy for your body and mind — even if you deal with chronic pain. The right games can get you up and moving and provide a distraction from your physical ailments, and they can do wonders for your imagination so you become happier in the process.
If you deal with chronic pain, then consider picking up a controller and turning on one of the newest PlayStation or Nintendo titles. You may find that you feel better after your epic gaming session. Not convinced? Let’s talk about it below.
What Is Chronic Pain?
While we all feel pain and discomfort from time to time, you will likely start to realize when you are dealing with chronic pain. Described as a condition that lasts over three months, chronic pain can be there all of the time or it can come and go. Either way, it constantly disrupts your life. Sometimes you can go to a doctor and they might diagnose you and prescribe medicine to ease symptoms, but the pain will continue for years or even your entire life. Even if you cannot completely eliminate this discomfort, you can make it easier to tolerate.
It is important to know that you don’t have to fall down or get into an accident to experience chronic pain. In fact, there are many common contributors to chronic pain that affect millions of people every year. For instance, if you are overweight, then you could experience joint stiffness and constant back and hip pain. Or, if you have poor posture, then you may feel excessive muscle tension. Sometimes, you may get a disease that is out of your control, like Lyme disease or cancer, that can cause that chronic pain.
While we will talk about how video games can help to fight pain, we should mention that there is some truth that excessive gaming can also cause physical and mental health issues. Many professional gamers can experience many musculoskeletal issues over time due to constant sitting. Also, staring at a screen all day can cause eye strain and bad vision over time. The key is to follow the steps below but to always play in moderation.
A Healthy Distraction
The main reason that video games can help people with chronic conditions is that engaging games can help to distract us from pain so we can forget about our issues for a little while. This phenomenon has been scientifically proven. During a 2011 study, participants were asked to put their hands in freezing cold water two times. During the first instance, they just put their hand in the water with no distraction. Then they put their hand in again while a video game was up as a distraction. The result was that the participants experienced significantly higher pain tolerance while the video game was playing.
The point is that if you are just sitting there fretting about your pain, then that is all you will think about. However, if you have something else to focus your attention on, then chances are good that you will naturally put less of a focus on your pain. There are many different games and genres out there that can keep you engaged, from open-world games, like “Zelda: Breath Of The Wild,” to numerous racing games, like “Mario Kart.” These options can give you hours of entertainment and help you to cope with your pain.
Video games that can be played online can help people to deal with chronic pain and also build a sense of community. If your chronic pain is so intense that you cannot get out of the house, then playing a game online can be a way that you can still communicate with the outside world. Many video games also allow you to create groups that you play with, so try finding a group of people who also suffer from chronic pain, and you can all talk out your problems as you play.
Activity and Stress Relief
The healthy distraction that video games can create is only one of the benefits to those who experience chronic pain. Sometimes, getting off of the gaming chair to stretch and engage in physical activity can also work out some of the discomfort you are feeling. If you are not stable enough to go outside for a walk, you can play a virtual reality or fitness video game that requires you to stand up and move, and it can be a great relief. Just be sure that you know your limitations and move with caution so you don’t hurt yourself further.
If you lack the overall energy to do many tasks around the house, then know that you are not alone. We tend to have less energy as we age because we typically get around less often, eat less healthily, and get less sleep than we used to in our younger days. The good news is that a short gaming session can provide a quick boost of serotonin, which is a chemical that carries positive messages to your brain and nerves to help you feel more energetic. You can carry that newfound energy into your other chores and errands.
Finally, playing video games in moderation can also provide stress relief, both by becoming a distraction and by helping you to exercise your brain. In addition to serotonin, gaming also releases dopamine into the body, which makes us feel good in general and less worried. The point is to have fun during your game and not get too tied up in winning or beating a difficult level the first time through.
As you can see, there are a plethora of ways that video games can at least provide temporary relief from your chronic pain. Consider this advice, and you can have fun while feeling better overall.