Are games killing us?

So, once again, let's talk worst-case scenario. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the less common (at least for computer users) variants of RSI, but it happens. It occurs after compression of the carpal tunnel - a passageway in the wrist down which passes the median nerve, which runs down the entire arm. Compression places the median nerve under great stress, expressed as tingling, numbness, muscle weakness or pain. Treatment can be anything from rest to steroid injections to physiotherapy to, in the most severe cases, surgery - cutting apart the carpal ligament so it no longer presses on the nerve. It's at least ten times as horrible as it sounds.

In reality, your PC use is most likely to win you a far less severe form of RSI - such as tendonitis, which generally requires staying away from the keyboard for a few days and taking painkillers. The tendons in the hand or arms become inflamed and swollen from all those repetitive movements, and start to rub against each other very painfully. Nurofen contains ibuprofen, which as well as reducingbooze-pain is an anti-inflammatory. It won't work overnight though - you could be out of action for a good couple of weeks.

The less physical dangers of videogaming are also less definitive, despite repeated scaremongering about addiction and violence. What, for example, are the mental effects of people over-gaming? "It can impact on their relationships with partners, family and friends causing them concern and/or relationship conflicts," says Richard Wood, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University. "This may particularly be the case if someone feels they are being neglected. Playing games too much can also impact on work or school performance, particularly if the person doesn't get enough sleep." Which is pretty much the case with any hedonistic activity, but what can be done about it without having to chuck your gaming lifestyle out of the window?

"Being aware of these possible impacts is a start," says Richard. "Organizing specific times when you will play is the best way to manage this. Sometimes it is necessary to sit down with a relative or partner to agree how much time is appropriate to play per week and when. Avoiding time-loss while playing can be avoided by setting alarms and/or timers, having other people interrupt at pre-defined times, playing in a room with other people present, or taking regular pre-defined breaks."

And if there's one piece of advice coming from every health camp I talked to, it's "take breaks." It's common sense, but so common that it's all too easy to shrug off. "Just one more hour won't hurt..."

Those hellboars you've been farming for their hides will still be cheerfully respawning if you take a break for five minutes. And if five minutes of gentle movement every hour seems more of a hassle than dying or suffering permanent bodily damage, then, well, perhaps it's not only physical help you need.