January 27, 2016 Amanda Hudgins

Pain Management at Conventions for Game Developers

If you’ve never been to a con before (or maybe you have) there are things you have to keep in mind. Pack some snacks, make sure to have bottled water, and bring an extra adaptor for your phone so that when it dies (because it will) you can charge it.

games convention

But what often gets left out of the discussion is what to do if you’re also someone who happens to be managing chronic pain. Maybe sometimes it’s incredibly difficult to get up in the morning. Maybe it feels like every muscle in your back is actually a separate rubber band that is creaking against a wooden frame as it tries not to snap. The idea of standing for eight hours on end at a booth sounds as close to a level of hell as you can imagine.

I have what my doctor calls a “relatively minor” case of scoliosis, and so what works for me may not work for you. When I asked another chronic pain sufferer what they did for conventions, they told me they just “endured it.” In many cases, this is basically what you have to do, and there’s little to no way around it. However, there are some steps that I’ve taken in the past that can help alleviate the pain a little bit.

Insoles Can Be Your Friend

I normally don’t wear insoles. While one of my legs is an inch longer than the other, insoles have a tendency to make me feel unbalanced and uncomfortable. However, for conventions they are a must-have. Insoles give me a little extra boost of padding between the concrete floors of the convention center and my feet.

probably not these, though they're great

probably not these, though they’re great

At some conventions you can pay a bit extra to have foam padding put in at your booth, but this is oftentimes a pretty steep cost and in my experience doesn’t help a whole lot. For the last two conventions I’ve attended I bought shoes a size too large and then put in some insoles to help, and for me it helped a bit.

Pro tip: wear the shoes (with the insoles) that you’re planning to wear before the con. I tend to wear combat boots because they supply a little bit extra support around my ankles, but sneakers are also a viable option. By wearing the shoes prior to the con your body can adjust.

Set up Your Booth to Have a Chair


If you’re able to, make sure to set up the area around your booth to have a chair. At one convention, when I was feeling particularly exhausted, I actually ended up sitting under one of the tables because I couldn’t find a place to sit down. Pain and just the sheer act of standing up for hours can really take a toll on your body, so finding the time to just sit down can be a real god send.

Drinks Lots of Water & Actually Eat

This is going to seem rather silly. You know to drink water. It belongs on every list about going to conventions, because sometimes you get so caught up in interview after interview that you forget to actually eat. Drinking water is even easier. I’ve seen people get faint at booths, and it’s a no go.

Stock Up on Your Pain Relievers


Make sure that you’re stocked up on pain medication beforehand. Finding the time to run to a nearby Target or pharmacy can be difficult, so make sure that you’re already pre-stocked. Pain medication and other things (I personally use Bengay during cons to help ease the pain to help me sleep) are usually a good idea to stock up on and put on your list for con prep.

Purchase or Bring a Heating Pad


One of the most successful things things I have for pain management is a heating pad. I picked mine up from Amazon, and there are a few options depending on what you’re looking for.

If you haven’t already discovered the wonder of a heating pad, this is mana. Basically laying on a heating pad turns me into a fat cat in the sun and I conk out relatively quickly.  Since I don’t like to use muscle relaxants at conventions (they tend to put me asleep for 14 hours which is a no go) I like heating pads.

Added bonus- they pack flat!

If you have any other suggestions for how to get your pain a bit better managed at an event where you’re supposed to stand for large stretches of time on concrete floors,then please let me know. I’d love to hear about your experiences and about what you do to combat pain and discomfort.

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