Pinball and Repetitive Strain Injury

This might end up being a long post, but the TL;DR is that hand/forearm health is important, you should probably stretch, and also examine the way you hold the machine.

So in the last year or so I started developing pain in my left forearm, wrist and hand. It started as a mild ache, but now my fingers tingle sometimes and I feel a burning sensation in my wrist. I pretty quickly figured out that it was way worse after playing a lot of pinball the previous day.

It sounds dumb, and at first it was kind of embarrassing. I mean how can you injure yourself playing a game where you hardly move? But in trying to figure out the root cause of the pain I discovered that my default way of playing was locking my left palm onto the corner of the lockdown bar, putting a lot of weight into it, and tensing up my forearm/wrist so that it didn’t move at all. I have no idea why that’s my stance, but it is, and it works for me. Doing this for hours upon hours obviously wasn’t good for those areas. My right arm generally hangs pretty loose and relaxed, and I haven’t felt any pain on that side.

The obvious solution is “just don’t do that, stupid” which I already know. The problem is that whenever I try to play with my arms completely relaxed I feel sluggish, like my reactions are way worse, and I play like shit. Not to mention when you play in tournaments it’s really hard to be completely relaxed anyway.

However the pain has gotten bad enough that I’m at the point where I have no choice but to practice playing with a new stance. I just have to accept playing worse for however long it will take to become comfortable playing that way (hopefully not forever). Also, it’s really hard to change your stance and keep it that way without switching back! I think it might be like rebuilding a golf swing or your jump shot mechanics, you get certain patterns so ingrained it’s hard to break out of them. Maybe if I force myself to drain a ball every time I tense up that would help :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

So PSA folks, pinball is a physical sport. You can injure yourself playing it. Play relaxed and loose. Stretch your hands and wrists before and after you play. Take care of your body! If you naturally play without a terrible stance consider yourself lucky.


Dunlap stance definitely moves that pressure point more onto the top of the lockdown bar and away from the corners. I’m happy to give a tutorial any time!


I try to keep my weight on my feet. I believe it keeps my mass ready to move and helps keep my balance.
I regard keeping more upper body weight on my hands as a more casual stance.

I get terrible golfer’s elbow after a long session of pinball. It gets bad enough that it’s a struggle to hold up a pint glass by the end of the night! It stems from the way I nudge the table, particularly nudging the ball off of a side rail. I’ll nudge with a hit to the side of the lockdown bar, usually with the base of my palm, near the wrist.

I’d like to adjust my nudging to avoid strain, but I can’t seem to get consistent results with other methods. Habit is hard to overcome… What methods do you all use to nudge the machine without killing yourself?

I’ve had pain in my right wrist from side nudges and aggressive slap saves recently, and it’s scary. Especially since I’ve been playing pinball for about 40 years and never had any pain before now.