Over 164 million Americans play video games, also known as gaming.1 If you or your children enjoy gaming, you may already know the frustration when a headache strikes in the middle of an important game. Although headaches can be caused by many different factors, playing video can trigger or worsen headaches.1 Find out the underlying causes behind gaming headaches and how you can treat them.
Causes of Gaming Headaches
Although the exact cause of many types of headaches, like tension headaches or migraines, is unknown, headaches are often triggered by avoidable factors.2 These common triggers related to gaming may cause you to experience headaches during or after playing video games.
One of the most common headache triggers is stress, which releases chemicals in the brain that cause vascular change.2 Anxiety, shock, excitement and mental fatigue can all cause stress-related headaches.2 If your gaming headaches start or become worse during especially challenging or exciting parts of a video game, stress may be the cause. Lowering stress through relaxation and frequent breaks can help soothe symptoms.
Eyestrain is a common complaint of gamers and can lead to headaches and poor concentration.1,2 Long hours spent looking at video games can lead to eyestrain and exhaustion. Although eyestrain is not always the sole cause of headaches, taking short breaks away from video games and other electronic devices can help you avoid eyestrain.2
Light sensitivity can trigger or worsen gaming headaches or migraines.2 Slow flickering lights or bright flashing ones can trigger a headache.2 Using anti-glare screens on computer monitors or other devices may help avoid headaches caused by light sensitivity.
If your headaches only occur after long periods of gaming, they may be related to fatigue or dehydration, common causes of headaches.3 When your body is dehydrated, your brain contracts, putting pressure on nerves and causing pain.3 Even mild dehydration can lead to a headache, making it important to take breaks from gaming to drink more water and rest.3
Gaming Headaches Symptoms
Although headache symptoms may differ depending on the type of headache, typical headache symptoms include:4
- Slow onset of the headache
- Pain on both sides of the head
- Dull pain that may involve the neck
- Mild to moderate pain, but not severe
The symptoms of a gaming headache may look like other conditions or medical problems.4 Speak to your healthcare provider if you experience headaches after playing video games.
How to Treat Gaming Headaches
Your healthcare provider can provide the best headache treatment for you based on your age and medical history.4 Avoiding known triggers, managing stress, and resting in a quiet, dark environment can help you manage your gaming headaches effectively.4 Consider other strategies for creating a headache-safe gaming routine.3,4,5
- Adjust your lighting. Balancing the brightness of your gaming device with the lighting in your room helps you avoid glare and minimize eye strain. Consider an anti-glare screen for your computer monitor.
- Take short, frequent breaks. Taking breaks that include looking away from your screen may help minimize eye strain and prevent gaming headaches. At the minimum, you should take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to view something 20 feet away.
- Adjust your screen. Reduce eye strain and triggering gaming headaches by placing your device at least 20 to 25 inches away from you.
- Stay hydrated. Avoid dehydration-related headaches by remembering to stay hydrated while gaming.
A headache-safe gaming routine helps prevent gaming headaches, but you may not be able to avoid them entirely. If you experience a headache while playing video games, take a break and rest until your symptoms improve. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also ease headache pain.4 Excedrin Extra Strength Headache Relief has a fast-acting formula that delivers headache relief for some in as little as 15 minutes. To learn more about preventing and treating headaches after playing video games, visit the Excedrin gaming hub.