Knitting Injuries, Repetitive Stress, and Hand / wrist pain
How to stay healthy and pain free when knitting!
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
*Disclaimer: first off I want to preface this by saying that as you may have guessed by the fact that this is a knitting blog and not a medical journal… I am not a doctor and not qualified in any way to give out medical advice on Knitting Injuries or anything else :). Below is simply a compilation of my ideas and suggestions coming from personal experience, and research. If you need medical assistance I recommend that you stop searching knitting blogs and call your doctor or another expert who can properly assist you, but in the meantime enjoy my weekly musings :)!
Knitting Injuries, is that a thing?
OK so first of all when we think about knitting we seldom think about it as an injury causing pastime. [Except maybe if you are a little too frantic to finish your next project and you accidentally poke yourself or your buddy with a knitting needle!… or there’s always the risk of injury when you don’t notice that you dropped a knitting needle on the couch before you sit down OUCH :)!]…
But the injuries which we don’t think about so much, but which are actually very common. Are the more insidious aches and pains which come along with repetitive movements.
Most knitters who have been knitting any length of time have experienced hand and wrist pain at one time or another… Often accompanied by back, neck, and shoulder pain from tension and lack of attention to posture…
Unfortunately these injuries also often crop up right at the most inconvenient times… when you are in the middle of a fascinating and engaging project and really don’t want to put it down, but alas how can you relax into knitting when you have throbbing pain!
What can you do to prevent Knitting Injuries?
Here are my top tips for keeping your hands, wrists, and backs less prone to pain and more resilient to repetitive stressors from knitting etc!
#1 Tip: Move around
If there’s one thing I have learned from working in front of the computer all day in my day job (I am an AutoCAD Drafting Tech so I do a lot of sitting)… and then enjoying stationary activities like knitting in the evening… it’s that as human beings we don’t tend to do well if we sit all day and don’t at least get the blood moving a little bit!… This doesn’t mean that you need to run marathons or join all kinds of gyms and aerobics clubs to stay healthy… Exercise is definitely important and I will leave that to you to decide how much, but from what I can tell what’s even more important for our health is to “break up your sitting” a little.
When we sit too long without moving our blood stops moving around as much and tends to pool and stagnate, and our organs often don’t get the oxygen that they need to stay healthy and flush out toxins etc.
- Take “Sitting Breaks”: Set a timer to go off once every hour to remind yourself to stand up and move for a minute or two… You don’t need to do much, it can be as simple as standing up and stretching for a minute or two, or just getting up and walking to the next room to make a cup of tea before you sit back down… if you can throw a few side bends or jumping jacks into the mix, so much the better to get your blood pumping, but the main thing is being on your feet and just moving a little every hour!
- Get a Pedometer: Tracking your steps can be very helpful. It is recommended that we get a minimum of 5,000 steps per day ideally more… [I’m going to tell you right now that I rarely reach that target, because my job just keeps me seated too much, and I have been having energy issues… but I find it very motivating if I glance at my pedometer and notice that it only has 340 steps on it then I go “uh-oh I’d better at least walk around the house or down the road for a couple of minutes this is ridiculous!” :)]. *Many pedometers are very expensive and have lots of bells and whistles… if you want a simple one I sell a basic pedometer (which is the one I use) and it simply clips onto your belt or into a pocket. All it does is tracks your steps, if you want one go to: My BeeGreen Store or email me and I can set up an order for you (they only cost $22 each and I can offer good discounts if you order more then one :)).
#2 Tip: Stretch
To prevent knitting injuries Remember to move your fingers, do gentle stretching to keep all of the ligaments and muscles limber to keep things from sizing up as you work… Do circles with your wrists to keep them moving too… This isn’t limited to your hands and wrists either, it’s a good idea to do some nice relaxing stretching for your shoulders, back, neck, and the rest of your body too! You don’t have to get crazy and become a yoga master, but keeping all of your joints moving is very important especially when you sit a lot!
Make a special point of moving your wrists and stretching your fingers regularly for a few seconds just to keep them limber… it’s good to do this when you stand up for your hourly ‘sitting break’ too!
#3 Tip: Don’t go 100% right out of the gate:
Especially if you haven’t been knitting in a while if you start knitting for hours every evening right off the bat you are likely to get pain and cramping in your hands and wrists particularly…
Take it a little slower, and don’t push past pain, if you are noticing aches and pains it might be time to set your knitting down at least for a few hours… While you take a break, if you are determined to stay in the knitting mindset, you can try: Jotting down pattern ideas and notes about projects you want to play with next, or maybe watch some youtube videos and learn some new techniques while resting your tired ligaments, Maybe read your newest knitting book for a bit?! 🙂
#4 Tip: Posture
If you are like me you intend to keep good posture, but often when knitting in front of the TV. it’s amazing what awkward postures you can unconsciously find yourself in! Hunched over with shoulders around your ears looking a little like Gollum guarding “my precious”!
I think the main thing with this one is to keep yourself aware of your posture, so that even if you occasionally end up in awkward positions… while you work like mad on a complex portion of your pattern… Or while you vegg out in front of your favorite sitcom and by the end of it you notice you are upside down… with your feet hanging over the back of the couch… and you’re not sure how you ended up that way while still knitting!). I think the main thing is to start noticing the unfortunate positions that we know are not good for our backs, necks, shoulders, etc. to prevent knitting injuries!
If you decide to take my advice and set a “movement timer” then before you get up to move/make your tea/do a little dance break/whatever. STOP and take notice of how you are currently sitting… just a quick check in with yourself to see if you are comfortable? do you notice yourself slouching? are you wearing your shoulders up around your ears? is there tension in your body anywhere? just notice…
Then when you come back to your seated position see if you can pay attention to relaxing your shoulders and not slouching in your chair for at least a few minutes, while you resume your knitting or other tasks. Even paying attention for a few minutes will help you to wire your brain to pay attention and notice when you are sitting awkwardly!
#5 Tip: Tools
Check that the tools and needles you are using are comfortable for you. Some knitting needles are more ergonomic then others. And sometimes it can be as simple as the tools you are using are causing more strain on you then they should!
#6 Tip: Efficiency of Movement:
Try to pay attention to HOW you are knitting… remove unnecessary large flourishes, and try not to crank your wrists and hands into contorted positions. (at least any more then absolutely necessary!).
Try to make sure that your hands and wrists are relaxed while you are knitting… if they are not relaxed (ie. if you are like me and hold tension in your pinky finger to run the yarn around it which keeps my tension… That can over time be an issue and cause knitting injuries… although also a very hard habit to break!). Try to relax your hands and the rest of yourself as much as you can while knitting!
Notice yourself knitting and see if you can pick out ways to economize your movements and alleviate some of that stress and tension which you might be holding in your hands or body… knitting is after all supposed to be a relaxing pastime!
These RMI’s (Repetitive Motion Injuries), are caused because knitting while very good for our minds and souls is also very repetitive… which in many ways can be a good thing, and it does strengthen hands and keeps us relaxed… However if we operate with poor posture or you don’t allow your muscles to catch up and give the ligaments and tendons the rest they deserve. then we can end up getting into trouble.
Common RMI’s for knitters are: bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, ganglion cyst, tenosynovitis, and trigger finger.
In a pinch sometimes ice can help, but it’s worth noting that all ice really does is to lower the natural inflammation that your body has created… which can definitely be useful at times, but your body is likely creating that inflammation for a reason (to bring blood supply and protect the injured area)… In the same vein pain killers might seem to make it feel better, but in actuality they don’t fix anything, so the more you continue to work while masking the pain with painkillers and ice the worse you can make the long term symptoms.
Pay attention to your body! If you feel pain give yourself a break while your ligaments and muscles readjust, and take it slow if you need to! Most people as long as they don’t overdo it to quick and cause permanent or semi-permanent injuries, can generally build up to knitting as much as they want to over time. your body just has to build up to it!
That’s my weekly musing for this week!
*If you have thoughts and ideas about Knitting Injuries, or if you have things to add, please post below!