By: Nyaka Mwanza
The gaming industry has recognized the importance of making games more inclusive and accessible. More and more, games and consoles come with accessibility features such as color-blind modes, adjustable font sizes and image contrast, and specialized controllers. Gaming accessibility is especially important if your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms make gaming and dexterity more challenging.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and RA fatigue. These symptoms can result in mobility issues, limited range of motion, and, in some instances, disability. Eye and vision issues, including dryness, inflammation, light sensitivity, pain, redness, and vision impairment, are other common RA symptoms.
Gaming can help take your mind off of your joint pain. Here are five tips to keep you in the game and level the playing field when your RA symptoms try to sideline you.
1. Make the Most of Adaptive Technology
Assistive technologies can help make gaming accessible for different abilities. These technologies may include:
- Adaptive controllers
- Ergonomic keyboards and mouses that can ease discomfort and prevent stress of the hand joints
- Keyboard shortcuts that can lighten the load and cut down on injuries that could come from repetitive motion
- Alternatives to mice, such as joysticks, that expand your options for PC gaming
- Voice controls that allow you to operate a computer hands-free
2. Prioritize Comfort With Specialized Gloves
Put your comfort first. If RA is affecting your hands, you might consider getting a pair of gaming gloves or compression gloves that can help with recurring or chronic hand pain. The gloves can help improve grip strength, provide support for sore joints, and increase hand stability.
3. Schedule Breaks
It’s important to ensure that you’re keeping your specific RA needs in mind and that you understand your gameplay may need to adapt to accommodate your condition as well. Listen to your body and don’t over do it. Staying in the same position for too long is not good for RA- related stiffness. Make sure you get up to stretch frequently while gaming and take lots of breaks. Consider setting an alarm to remind you to take regular movement breaks.
4. Work in Some Movement
Games that get you moving, sometimes called exergaming, can keep you entertained while helping you meet several workout goals — greater flexibility, overall fitness, stronger muscles, weight loss, or wider range of motion — that are helpful in coping with RA. More good news: exergaming counts towards the recommended practice of getting moderate physical activity every day. Scientists have found that 30 minutes of exergaming is equivalent to a 30-minute brisk walk and burns 226 calories.
5. Talk to Your Doctor
While these tips may help, it’s also important to check in with your doctor. Ultimately, your doctor may know what’s best for your specific needs when it comes to your rheumatoid arthritis. Work with your doctor to determine if you’re at risk of injury from overuse, or if there are other steps you should be taking to ensure your best joint health while still making room for gaming and other things you love.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and More — Arthritis Foundation
- Fatigue and RA — myRAteam
- Add Video Games to Your Arthritis Workout Plan — Arthritis Foundation
- How to adapt your computer for living with arthritis — AbilityNet
- Arthritic Gaming — Everyday Arthritis
About the author: Nyaka Mwanza is a freelance writer for MyHealthTeams. She completed a B.A. in Communications: Visual Media from American University and undertook post-baccalaureate studies in Health/Behavioral Communications and Marketing at Johns Hopkins University. Nyaka is a Zambian-born, E.U. citizen who was raised in sub-Saharan Africa and Jacksonville, N.C. However, she has called Washington, D.C., home for most of her life. For much of her career, Nyaka has worked with large global health nonprofits focused on improving health outcomes for women and children. Nyaka believes words hold immense power, and her job is to meet the reader where they are when they’re there.