Controller Hands

Perhaps you’ve felt the foreshadowing twinges after a marathon gaming session. Your thumbs, fingers and/or your wrists let you know you held that controller a little too long. You might think these ignorable inklings are signifying the carpal tunnel or arthritis you can look forward to in your future. While that may be the case, there is something else to fear. Controller Hands!

Controller Hands is a little-known condition occurring more frequently in elder gamers of late, but should be a concern for each and every one of us. Comparable to Mouse Hand (an affliction common to ageing PC gamers/users) Controller Hands has yet to be acknowledged by the medical community. Despite two e-mails I sent my doctor, no coverage has appeared in current medical journals. I have thus decided to take matters into my own hands and shed light on this unfortunate phenomenon.

Now if your gaming career is not very extensive or is a more casual affair, you need not worry, I hope, however those of us who have been at it for a long time or those who play like it’s going out of style, pay close attention. The effect of Controller Hands is that over time your hands become too accustomed to the position of holding a controller. Your bones, muscles and tendons begin to lock in said formation. This leads to the arrangement of your cherished appendages that would suggest you hold an invisible controller.

If you find this amusing, then try carrying out your daily activities with Controller Hands. Granted you could still text “brb”, “LOL” and such on your cell phone, but try typing on a computer keyboard. Okay, you could probably still drive a car as well, but try picking up a glass of water. Try shaking someones hand, giving a high five, snapping your fingers, buttoning your pants or a shirt, doing a cartwheel, juggling oranges… Sorry, I got a little carried away there. I just want everyone to be aware of this impending impediment.

You might be curious about your options when and if this happens to you. Who would blame you for pondering the well being of your precious digits? Well, don’t be expecting a disability check. As I said, the medical community is turning a blind eye. Research and treatment at this point is nonexistent. For now, you’ll simply have to prepare yourself for the eventual encumbrance. This might involve restricting yourself to activities and tasks that would allow you the use of your misshapen metacarpals. Think of all the things that would still fit in your gnarled hands. Phones, small flashlights, remote controls, water hoses, etc. Such items will of course depend on the dimensions of your preferred controller. However, if you prepare yourself with such knowledge, you will lessen the frustration, embarrassment and possibly severe depression that may result from this condition.

Perhaps this news has struck fear into your fingers and you will favor the extreme reaction of abandoning your electronic pursuits. I would never suggest such outlandish behavior. Furthermore, I do not suggest any form of prevention other than being prepared. While I could play the other side and tell you to take regular breaks to stretch out your hands, I won’t. I am quite familiar with the circumstances that would not allow such a simple remedy. You might be on a golden winning streak, it could be a double XP weekend, you have to find out what happens, you want to reach the next checkpoint (and then the one after that), you’re about to level up, that collectible has got to be around there somewhere, or you must have your revenge for the punishment you received from a particularly nasty boss. Besides, with Controller Hands, gaming will always be a good fit for you. Get it? Sorry, bad joke.

An anonymous Controller Hands sufferer, clearly in pain

Seriously though, do not worry as this condition has just now started to rear its ugly head. As more and more cases come to light, it will gradually receive more attention and perhaps treatment will one day be covered by your health insurance. I do apologize for being the bearer of bad news, but I thought everyone would prefer to be in the know. Knowing is half the battle, right? That’s what G.I. Joe said anyway. So do your part and help spread the word. The more noise we make, the better. You owe it not only to yourself, but to the gaming community at large.

Thank you and have a nice day of dexterity. Enjoy it while you can.

Last five articles by Joe



  1. Rook says:

    I’ve been gaming for many years and used a number of different joysticks, joypads, controllers and keypads, so I may be fortunate that my hands have not yet developed auto controller grip muscle memory or Controller Hands as you call it. You sound like the medical expert on this so I will go with your name on this.

    Is this condition based moreso in those that may dedicate themselves to one controller type? Does that mean Wii players will not only have Controller Hands but also Controller Arms; flailing their arms about inexplicacbly. Please continue to inform us of any further developments or any other gaming conditions that may befall us.

  2. Iain says:

    Haha brilliant read. I presume that sufferers of controller hands are also prone to bouts of square eye syndrome as well. Maybe we should set up some kind of petition – if left unchecked I’m sure these illnesses could kill!

  3. Ste says:

    Is this condition such a bad thing? If it does get recognised as a proper medical condition then that means I can get a doctors note for it and be signed off sick. ” Sorry boss, cant come into work today, I have a nasty case of Controller hands.” Sounds like a good illness to me!

  4. John says:

    The solution to this terrible affliction? Kinect.

  5. Michael Author says:

    I’ve gained this symptom with my Rock Band guitar controller. My hands are stuck in the green, yellow and blue button positions, and I even “air Rock Band” in my sleep!

  6. Kat says:

    :D my hands are usually okay but my neck and right arm suffer. The only game to pain me directly is Beautiful Katamari, the pressure of it all killed my thumbs!

    lol @ John for either being a comedian or having some sensible advice!

  7. Iain says:

    My left arm suffers, but that’s for an entirely different reason…

  8. Richie richie says:

    I dearly hope that when I’m 70 I’ll have crazy controller hands. Unfortunately it’s going to be such a fucking Kinect/Move/Wii nightmare by then that we’ll have stopped using our hands at all.

  9. Mark Mark S says:

    I dont get pain when holding a controller. But my DS. I notice my left index finger has started to cramp up. Its odd, and it hurts like hell. Normal folk would just put the thing down and do something else. I just hold my DS in strange ways :P

    Great article.

  10. GalerianXD1 says:

    HAHA! great read. I’m just hoping we have a VR machine like those from Red Dwarf soon.

  11. Samuel Samuel says:

    Heh, amusing idea this. And there I thought the technical term was “wank hands”… just me? I said nothing. Well just pretend? Please? Hey, Iain practically admitted the same problem!

    I’ve not really suffered from a game controller cramping my hands up, and I play for hours and hours at a time, regularly. I used to have a real problem with computer mice though. I have a trackball now, and as well as being a more precise method of controlling my computer, it has completely done away with my RSI, as my wrist isn’t moving anymore, just my thumb.

    Good article Joe, look forwards to seeing what other public health messages there are for gamers in the future.

  12. Iain says:

    @Preacher, I prefer to call it wankers cramp ;)

  13. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I can’t say that I’ve ever suffered from Controller Hands but recently I’ve suffered from “Forward Thumb” where my left thumb has been pushed constantly in the forwards position for hours. Playing six hours of Moxxi’s Underdome at the weekend left me with a dent in my left thumb from constantly moving forward. I think it depends on the intensity of the game as I’ve played Burnout Paradise for something like 14 hours straight without even getting up to go to the toilet, but never had any issue with sore hands.

    Oddly enough though, as I’m so out of practice with my drumming, I sat behind my kit for only 30 minutes the other day and the main muscle for my thumb (Abductor Pollicis) became completely rigid and painful, just as it did when I first started playing drums. I know what causes it, it’s holding the sticks too tight, but it’s just remembering NOT to that’s the problem. Perhaps when I was playing with Moxxi’s Underdome I was thrusting my stick forward with too much intensity? I’ll leave my innuendo book at the door, in case anyone needs it.

  14. Lorna Lorna says:

    Haven’t yet suffered from this affliction…however, I have had D-Pad thumb, mouse hands, and mouse-hand hypothermia :D

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