console or PS2 controller for someone with carpal tunnel?
January 10, 2009 7:15 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend -- an avid fan of console games -- was recently diagnosed with carpal tunnel and can't use a PS2 controller for more than a few minute without experiencing debilitating pain in her right arm. Does anyone know of an alternative controller that might free up her right hand? Has anyone used a DDR pad for non-dance related games, for instance? Or, have you tried the access controller? I'm worried it might just start aggravating her other arm, though... How about other consoles that have such an option? Controllers that essentially work the same way as a standard controller, but are smaller/larger/more ergonomic don't seem to help.
posted by cjmchampton to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could try adjusting the way she uses the controller. Like setting it on her lap and using her fingers to tap the buttons instead of the thumbs. I remember doing that back in the old days of 24 hour marathon NES games. Or you could get an arcade style controller like this. Would probably take some getting used to, but would definitely help.
posted by sanka at 7:39 PM on January 10, 2009

When I had tendinitis, I was bored out of my mind because I couldn't do anything productive and I played a shitload of Rock Band. If she's not able to do drums and/or guitar, go for vocals?

I've also been able to play fighter characters in Tales of the Abyss with a dance pad, but only as P2-- P1 (you?) has to do all the navigating and she has to kick the shit out of that dance pad during fights :)
posted by NoraReed at 7:59 PM on January 10, 2009

The access controller will definitely aggravate the other arm. Usually, when one arm gives way, the other one isn't far behind.

With due respect to her doctor, she probably has some other RSI condition that's not carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel is very frequent misdiagnosis for some other troubles. So much so, that the book by the #1 world expert on RSI is called "It's not carpal tunnel syndrome!"

First, she should stop playing and stop typing. Her condition will aggravate very quickly if she insists on playing through the pain. RSI is serious stuff, it can lead to lifelong disability if the abuse continues, so take it seriously. Second, she should read a lot about RSI. Read the book, read my web page on RSI, then read the websites of the two leading experts, Jack Bellis & Suparna Damany, and Dr. Deepak.

Finally, she should listen to the advice printed on the cover of a book "It's not carpal tunnel syndrome" and seek a second medical opinion. In the RSI-is-carpal-tunnel confusion is more than 10-year-old. She should ask for references and find a doctor that has up-to-date knowledge of RSI.

Only after she has recovered from her injury should see return to playing. Good ergonomics will only matter later, after a recovery, to avoid reinjury. Right now, you should be looking for good treatments.
posted by gmarceau at 8:21 PM on January 10, 2009

This kind of injury can subside with time (though I 'nth' everyone here who mentions getting further diagnosis)... I had it bad with Duke Nukem 3d... Then, 6 months after I stopped playing and it never occured again (boy, I am hoping that "Forever" is really "Forever"...)
posted by jkaczor at 9:41 PM on January 10, 2009

lots of wii games are played with just the wii-mote, so she could easily play a whole bunch of wii games with her left hand, in positions that are less likely to trigger her carpal tunnel than gripping a controller.
posted by lia at 11:01 PM on January 10, 2009

Well, if you are open to looking at other consoles, a Wii seems like the obvious suggestion here. Would your girlfriend enjoy Wii Sports? While I've never experienced carpal tunnel syndrome, I imagine that certain Wii games could be played without too much aggravation.

Another option might be to look into PC gaming, where you would have a much greater variety of possible input devices, and more control over how they are configured (you should be able to use macro software to map controls however you want). You could play older console games this way using an emulator... I imagine using a USB dance mat controller to play, say, NES games (which have fairly simple controls) might work really well.
posted by oulipian at 11:14 PM on January 10, 2009

I have played a fighting game on the DDR pad (playstation 1), and it's very tiresome (and hard!), but fun

I don't have carpal tunnel or tendinitis, and my wrist hurts after just a few guitar hero/rock band songs on guitar.

It seems like a Wii is where you should be. Or perhaps racing games with a steering wheel?

Also, my friend has an Arcade controller for the XB360 (you know, one 8-way arcade stick and 6 buttons). Could help.
posted by qvantamon at 2:36 AM on January 11, 2009

Please persuade her to listen to gmarceau, and to give her body a break from gaming until it heals. Being an avid fan of console games is no reason to bugger up her hands for life.
posted by flabdablet at 2:55 AM on January 11, 2009

Since you've got a PS2 you should have her try Lifeline for something unique and different. It's a survival horror game set in space where all the onscreen actions are done by issuing verbal commands into a headset. I haven't tried it, but I hear it plays pretty well for what it is. I should add that it probably uses the controller for menus, so please take the advice of others here seriously and don't get your hopes up for even limited console gaming until her condition improves.

Also, it is possible to get a mouse and keyboard setup for the PS2, but I don't know if that would help any and it has limited game support.
posted by CheshireCat at 3:28 AM on January 11, 2009

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