CAN A GAMING PILLOW REDUCE PAIN? SCIENCE & ERGONOMICS OF GAMING PILLOWS
CAN A GAMING PILLOW REDUCE PAIN? SCIENCE & ERGONOMICS OF GAMING PILLOWS
Gaming Pillow for Injury Prevention?
If you want to prevent your back and neck from looking like this, then get a gaming pillow
Ok not really but it can help to prevent back and neck pain and increase your comfort while gaming. Gaming pillows are new ergonomic health products new to the space of gaming and there is promise that it can be beneficial for the health of certain populations of gamers.
One of these pillows is Valari (whom I’ve partnered with) which provides custom or standard design pillows of the highest quality. This is truly a need in the space and I have actually recommended regular pillows countless times to console pros and mobile gamers as we all know gamers grind and often forget to think about their physical health.
DO GAMERS REALLY USE PILLOWS WHILE PLAYING?
Zain is currently (as of 8/12/22) the top ranked Super Smash Brothers Melee player in the world and is known for utilizing a memory foam pillow during his gameplay. This image is taken from his tournament victory at Genesis 8. There are many gamers who reach out to us due to their neck, back and shoulder pain with posture / ergonomics being a contributor to their pain. (KEEP IN MIND POSTURE IS NOT THE ONLY CONTRIBUTOR)
This is especially true with console gamers, whether it be fortnite, call of duty, apex legends, we hit that gamer posture, lose track of time because we’re just looking to climb ranks. And then we emerge with a little bit of stiffness.
So how can a GAME PILLOW help with this?
SCIENCE BEHIND GAMING PILLOWS
Let’s get a little bit into the science and physiology. There have been studies which have shown the combination of slumped postures AND prolonged sitting can lead to an increased risk of back and neck pain.
While the reason isn’t completely clear research suggests that in a slumped or kyphotic posture muscles have to work harder to hold the body up against gravity. This is not only due to the muscle physiology but also due to poor biomechanical leverage (Jung 2021). This might lead to earlier fatigue of the muscles leading to increased stress on tissues at the back
For gamers who often sit for extended periods of time, sleep poorly and have lower levels of physical activity – our muscles and tissues may already have lower resilience. The combination of the posture and the other factors lead to stiffness, aching and occasional pains in the back and neck. What postures do we typically see? The slouched or forward position. This is often due to the desire of players to get closer to their gaming display or not considering their environment in the first place and falling into a suboptimal posture or position.
This is where the pillow comes in! A pillow provides support to shift a forward lean position to one that is a bit more upright.
THE FORWARD LEAN POSITION IN GAMING
This is one of the most common gaming positions we see (especially for console gaming). We typically see
- Forward Lean
- Poor Shoulder Position (shoulders shrugged, not shown)
- Forearm pressure on thigh
- Cervical Extension (bending neck back)
We see a forward lean, often poor shoulder position (shoulder is raised up) – highlight upper traps, Forearms resting on the thigh – while this can offload some of the musculature on the back, it typically creates an awkward position for the neck (neck is bent upwards).
Over time this can occasionally contribute to some neck, shoulder back discomfort but also affect movement outside of the game. As stiffness may develop limiting overhead range of motion (especially if the mid back is rounded).
UPRIGHT POSITION IN GAMING
With a gaming pillow the body becomes more upright, the shoulder is a bit more relaxed allowing the forearms to rest comfortably on the surface (instead of more of the bodyweight).
The neck and overall spine is in a more neutral position which affects the function of the surrounding tissues. This may lead to an increase in trunk muscle endurance and more endurance means less potential risk of strain.
Oftentimes we see forearms unsupported too which might lead to increased shoulder / neck use, again which the pillow helps to offload.
POSTURE IS ONLY ONE PART OF OUR PHYSICAL HEALTH
Before we move on let’s underscore an important point
Posture ITSELF is not a predictor of pain but when we include some of the other factors like, time spent sitting, overall conditioning and lifestyle, sleep, etc. (Correia 2021).
As gamers we often sit too much, move too little and stay up a little too late. Door dash diet doesn’t help as well. These are all things to be addressed in another article however! We can use a pillow to at least address the postural and ergonomic contribution to any physical health issues but also have to remember physical health is about addressing the other factors as well (as they are typically more important!). These are things like exercise, taking breaks, prioritizing your sleep, considering your nutrition and many more.
HOW DO YOU USE A GAMING PILLOW?
- Upright Position – If you naturally sit up right this might be a way you can utilize the Valari. You will notice a common theme across each of these positions is the forearm support and varying levels of support for the back. In this position while the back is not supported you are a bit more active in maintaining the upright position. The pillow should be positioned around your waist to ensure your shoulders stay relaxed. It is quite common to see the shoulders “elevate” due to a position of the pillow being too high.
- Reclined Position – If you have the habit of leaning back this is another position you might be able to assume with a gaming pillow. This is a bit less active than the upright position as you are able to have support for the spine. While support can be helpful, remember it may be beneficial to change positions regularly so you can maintain healthy function of the muscles controlling your trunk. Swapping between the reclined & upright and even #3 may promote this. Again you will see forearm support and the relaxed shoulders based on the pillow position.
- Slight Lean Position – If leaning forward helps you focus and perform better as a gamer you can also use a gaming pillow to limit the amount of upper spine rounding. This again can help limit the amount of potential stress on tissues at the neck and shoulder over time. Again keep the forearm supported and shoulders relaxed by being cognizant of appropriate pillow position.
SET UP THE VALARI GAMING PILLOW!
Overall it is pretty straightforward for use but here are some things to keep in mind with its use.
If you play on your PC with a controller, this is a great option.
- Wrap it around, Buckle (attach securely)
- Ensure your forearms are parallel and supported – side view
- Remember to take breaks and even perform some exercises between some games
FINAL THOUGHTS FOR GAMING PILLOWS
- The pillow can be helpful to improve your gaming posture and potentially offload the stress on different tissues depending on how you sit BUT
- You can’t forget about the other aspects of your physical health – conditioning, lifestyle and breaks, sleep and recovery as they all can make an impact!
- It is simple to use as you just put it around your waist, make sure your forearms are appropriately supported and spine generally in neutral position
- Use it for xbox, playstation, controller, mobile, tablet gaming or if you just want to read
Also If you want to learn more about the Valari, it is filed with dacron. I’ll also be doing a more in-depth review in an upcoming video and article!