By Dr. Nicholas Marini
That is, indeed, the question for many people nowadays. As for me? I LOVE to game. It has been one of my hobbies since I was a young child and my father said “Hey Nick! Check out this Star Trek ATARI game!” Now as a professional and a father, I look at it a little differently. Is it good for you or not?
Like all things, moderation is the key. Experts have done plenty of scientific studies and concluded that it is quite good for the development of the brain. It enhances hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, planning abilities, and more. It can be useful in the treatment of developmental issues like ADD, Tourettes, ADHD, autism, etc. It’s fantastic for delaying mental decline in older adults and even neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease.
When I was in chiropractic college, we even used the Nintendo WII in treatment plans with patients and studied its effects. Not all games are the same. Some are better for certain conditions and goals than others. It’s not a question of “should or should not,” but “where, when, and how.”
Any ergonomic issue or poor position can create a harmful shift in the spine and subluxation if held for just 15 minutes. While exact positioning depends on each person’s setup (console gaming vs computer gaming vs phone gaming), general rules still apply:
Head over shoulders, shoulders back, arms resting comfortably at your side, and avoid reclining a great deal to name a few.
If you have questions about your setup, I’m always happy to discuss how I can enhance your gaming experience! There are plenty of exercises that I can recommend as well as rehab we can do in the office. It’s fun to geek out about a passion whilst also helping people.
Neurologically speaking, remember when I said too much of anything isn’t good? That’s true of video games as well. Specifically, with regards to the brain’s reward centers and dopamine release. Dopamine
(among other substances) is one of the brain's “reward” neurotransmitters. Excessive gaming beyond that which the brain can tolerate can cause a change in the brain that mimics addiction, similar to what you would see in compulsive gamblers.
Lastly, do you have trouble sleeping after gaming? Researchers suggest that video games an hour before bed MAY negatively affect your sleep efficiency (how well you sleep). They suppose it has to do with what type of game you play, like shooters vs puzzles vs builders, etc. However, what they commonly see is that it may affect how quickly you fall asleep and the quality/quantity of your dream sleep. Couple this with other issues you may be having that affect your sleep, such as pain or an illness, and you may make a good night's sleep harder to come by.
All in all, continue to enjoy gaming, but please be mindful of the potentially negative effects. Watch your posture and make smart choices. I invite you when you’re in to tell me about it. I'd love to geek out with you and help you continue to game safely!