Living the Knit Life


When Knitting Hurts

I have chronic wrist and finger pain (mainly in my right hand) from years of knitting.  Since giving up knitting is not an option for me as it is the only thing really that keeps me sane(ish), and I can't imagine parting with my stash,  I have been forced to adapt my habits and make allowances for my pain.

I have been to doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, and physiotherapists and while none of them have been able to make the pain go away completely and stay away, I have taken away something from all of them and come up with my own coping strategy*:

  • Take a break: Knitting is meditative.  When I am knitting on a project and I find my 'flow', I can happily knit for hours in a state of serene contemplation.  This usually results in a sore hand/wrist the next day.  I have to mindfully take breaks, walk away and find something else to do.  Sometimes I knit by the inch (as in I will knit a certain number of inches then take a break), sometimes I knit with a time limit (as in I will change tasks in one hour, or after this episode or podcast)

  • Stretch: This infographic is from www.weareknitters.com .  I already do most of these stretches.  They help.  A lot. I find them especially helpful in the evening or at bedtime since everything seems to seize up while I sleep.  Click on the link above to see the stretches in motion and take a look at their excellent website. 

  • Warm water: Having a shower, a bath or even just washing some dishes in warm water seems to to help the pain and stiffness quite a bit.  
  • Wear a Brace: I hate this one, but it helps.  I have a brace for my right hand that restricts the range of motion and essentially forces me to rest.  It's a bitch to knit in, so I don't knit when I wear it, but that's probably the point. 
  • Medication: I occasionally take anti-inflammatories to help with the discomfort.  Not very often though as I do not want to become dependent on them.  

Here are some things that other knitters have told me work for them:

  • Change your knitting style: I am not bi-stitchual. I only knit one way - I guess I would call it modified English style - the yarn is in my right hand, but instead of throwing it over the needle, I flick it with my index finger.  I have tried to switch to continental, but it does not work for me. I am set in my ways.  I envy knitters who can alternate easily between English and Continental.  If you try this, be careful about doing it in the middle of a project as your tension may change and so might your gauge.  

  • Change Crafts: I am also not bi-craftual.  I am a one-trick pony.  I knit.  I occasionally crochet an edging or a small embellishment, but that's it.  If you are multi-craftual, you can give your hands and wrists a break by focussing on your other crafts for a while.  Crocheting, sewing, writing, drawing, needlepoint, cross-stitch, spinning, dyeing...the fibre community is full of so many talented, multi-craftual people - we really are an amazing bunch of creative talents.  

  • Avoidance: If there is a specific part of knitting that triggers your pain, avoid it.  Small circumference needles add to my pain.  I love to knit socks on 9 inch circular needles, but will have wrist pain for days afterwards.  Other knitters I know have noticed they have similar triggers.  Some have issues with small-sized needles, some have certain positions they cannot knit in and one knitter I know cannot use straights without getting elbow pain.  I avoid deadline knitting as well as I will marathon knit to make the deadline and end up in pain.  
*Disclaimer - I am not a healthcare professional.  This post is not intended to replace medical advice.  This is my own personal experience and experiences that have been shared with my by others.  If you have a knitting related injury/strain/pain you should seek the advice of a qualified medical professional.  
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