“How to beat aches and pains if you play chess”

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

The challenge. The fun. Very few hobbies match the cerebral yet relaxing flow of a good chess game.

Whether you’re a master chess player or one who enjoys a good game every so often, you love the ebb and flow of the game. But chess is also an activity that can lead to PAIN!

Chess is a set up for neck pain. The long hours spent hunched over the board as well as any time spent extending (bending your head back) can lead to neck strain. This causes muscle aches in the neck and shoulders. You can also bet headaches. So what do you do? Well, first, recognize that this is going to happen if you don’t take frequent breaks particularly if you hold your head in one position for a long time. It’s a good idea to stretch before and after your sessions.

Your shoulders can also hurt. When you work with your arms held in one position, you can run into a problem called impingement syndrome. This is when your rotator cuff tendons get pinched. It’s a common problem. Specific stretching exercises for the shoulder before and after you play should help. Also, make sure you take frequent breaks. Ice packs after you work sometimes help with the pain as do over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines.

Elbow pain is a common problem after any type of repetitive arm motion. Playing chess can lead to a painful condition called lateral epicondylitis. This is a type of tendonitis that affects the outside part of the elbow. Stretching before you work can help as can stretching and ice after you play. Anti-inflammatory medicines, an elbow band, and physical therapy also can help. You may need an injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP to heal the tendon. Do not have a cortisone injection. This may make it feel better but it weakens the tendon tissue!

Hand and wrist pain is another common problem. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition where the median nerve into the hand gets pinched. This causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand. Treatment consists of physical therapy, a splint, and sometime injecting with steroid. In some instances, surgery is required. Different forms of tendonitis can also develop after wood working. You can get trigger finger where the finger seems to stick. A painful tendonitis of the thumb can also be a result of playing chess.

Low back pain can come on from sitting too long in one place or by lifting and carrying heavy articles. Stretch before you play and also afterward. Use ice packs if you strain your back. Over the counter medication can sometimes help also. See your doctor if the pain is severe or doesn’t go away within a day or two.

General all around conditioning is important. Don’t neglect the aerobic conditioning. Chess is a physically demanding as well as mentally demanding sport.

Stretching and massage are two important areas of treatment to consider if you love to play chess.

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