When Video Games Help My MS

Living with Multiple Sclerosis requires a lot of thinking outside the box. It necessitates being willing to try things that you might not be familiar with as you look for ways to deal with your symptoms. I wrote a while back about how one example of that for me was building LEGO sets as a form of therapy. Today, I want to talk about another similar activity that has been beneficial to me: playing video games. Since I was fairly young, I had some interest in video games, however, I never expected that they’d still play an important role in my life so many years later.

Benefits

The idea that playing video games can be beneficial to those with Multiple Sclerosis is nothing new. Our own Ashley Ringstaff actually brought this to light a couple years back. Various studies have shown that playing video games can be helpful with regards to pain relief and in improving cognitive ability. Many of these studies have even shown that these benefits extend not only to brain training games like you might see on a site like Lumosity, but to action type games as well. Obviously, video games as a form of distraction can be extremely beneficial, particularly if you are having a rough day. That’s a very legitimate benefit. Some mobile games like Pokémon Go (yes, that’s still pretty big where I live) can be also be helpful in getting people out to get more activity than they normally would. That little extra motivation a game like that can provide can be very beneficial.

My own experience

I actually looked at video games as something beneficial long before I was diagnosed with MS. I’ve mentioned my “party hand” in a previous article; this deformity made me work hard at playing games when I was younger. There was a time when I thought I’d never be able to hold a gaming controller, but I worked hard at it, mostly because I wanted to be like everyone else. I have no doubt forcing myself to use a gaming controller ultimately helped me make more use of my deformed hand in other areas of life. As someone who still battles with hand issues, now because of MS, I’m confident that pushing myself to use the controller is beneficial. That forced connection between my brain and hands is important.

Video games offer an escape

I deal with a lot of pain and cognitive issues because of MS as well, and I like to think that playing video games helps with that too. I can say for sure that even simply as a distraction, gaming has been very beneficial, particularly for pain. At the very least, video games offer an escape. They give us a chance to immerse ourselves into a different world for a short period of time, sometimes that’s exactly what we need when trying to get through a particularly rough day. I suffer from a lot of anxiety, and one quick way for me to help myself deal with that is to jump online and let my mind focus on a game.

Frustrations

It’s not always easy, I have days where my hands don’t want to work well or my cog fog is simply too much. In fact, some days I can kind of tell just how badly my body is operating by how I’m playing. I tend to play a lot of “first-person shooters” (games like Battlefield and Halo) that keep “career” stats. I can literally look at graphs of my performance over a period of time and pick out the days where I was having more active MS symptoms. Sometimes my level of gameplay is a sign that something is going wrong, as I’ve noticed my game performance tanking right before I’ve suffered an exacerbation or a worsening of symptoms. One interesting example: I’ve noticed my level of play starting to get worse at times, which has allowed me (on more than one occasion) to realize that the room was getting too warm.

Video games aren’t for everyone, but there are some benefits for people with a chronic illness like MS. Maybe playing a video game isn’t right for you, but I hope that hearing about this will at least make you think outside the box some when it comes to finding something beneficial in your life. I know I never expected to be playing games a lot at this age, but I’m glad I got past that mentality.

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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