12
Nov

KNITTING PAINS AND HOW TO HANDLE THEM

Written by Sarah on November 12th, 2013 Posted in life, long reads

First off, I am in no way a medical professional so if you’ve found this blog post because you’re Googling pain associated with knitting, go talk to your doctor.

As I mentioned last week, my wrists have been pretty unhappy for a few days. I’ve been having some awful aches in my wrists, elbows, and sometimes a bit shooting into my upper arms. When I tweeted about my plight, I was immediately met with calls to rest, ice, and stretch along with a dose of Advil. I take after the stoic women in my family who refuse to see a doctor unless something is definitely bleeding or has been broken for three weeks so it is all the more reason to take care of myself.

I think it’s important to address this here because it’s something that I haven’t dealt with so seriously up until this point and something that less experienced knitters don’t tend to think about at all. We have to take care of our little mitts. These are the only wrists we’ve got. Knitting is a full contact sport and can cause long-term damage.

wrists

I’ve been in serious denial that I was having pain related to knitting until I had to give myself time off. I was under the impression that I hadn’t knit very much last week so I didn’t know what caused all of this trouble. I stopped knitting on Thursday and was feeling better Saturday afternoon. I decided that I’d knit a little bit but, big mistake, the pain was at its worst Saturday night where I couldn’t lift a glass of water without wincing. I often sleep wrong and pull muscles in my neck and I have a job that requires heavy lifting of cumbersome pieces. I like to think I’m always lifting with my knees and being careful but other people have been injured and I’ve definitely come home sore on more than one occasion. That being said, I do spend a lot of time with my needles and many designers have given me the side eye when I tell them this is definitely not a knitting injury. Whether it is or not, maybe I’ll never know but either way, it’s time to treat this the way it deserves.

In my research and reading, here’s my best suggestions for avoiding any wrist pains ever:

1. Posture – I knit after a long day at work. I knit on the couch, sprawled out while watching a movie. Sometimes I knit crammed on a packed rush hour train. It’s really easy to forget proper posture when I’m tired but that’s the first step down a long road to permanent wrist pain. Sit up straight with your feet on the floor. Having good posture is important for life outside of knitting, too. Sitting up straight at work and having a chair that is the correct height is a good start and will help keep knitting from exacerbating the situation. (There are great posture tips from a physical therapist here and here!)

2. Stretch – There are so many stretching guides for knitters. You know what to do, stretch your fingers out and push them back towards your wrists lightly. Squeeze your elbows down to your wrist. (Here are some great stretches to keep your fingers limber. Thanks for passing those along, Linda!)

3.  Relax – Knitting all day isn’t good for you. It’s really tempting and, let’s be honest, sometimes you have to finish a sample in time or you haven’t had time to knit all week and Sunday is free of plans! Be careful! A lot of you have suggested switching between projects with different gauges but more importantly, just put the needles down. Give yourself nice breaks to stretch and relax. Go outside or eat a sandwich or read a goddamn book. I’m going to go ahead and say don’t switch from knitting to cruising Ravelry. Typing is not going to give your wrists a break.

Now, in addition to the top three suggestions, here’s how I’ve been treating my sore wrists:

1. Support Gloves – I was wearing my Lion Brand wrist support gloves (pictured above) after the pain initially started. They’re tight and feel like your wrist is getting a hug. Some people say that if they start to feel pain, they can continue knitting after throwing a pair of these. Now that the pain’s been with me for a few days, I decided to get some more serious gloves that are a bit rigid. I invested in these Futuro gloves that are very comfortable and seem to be helping me heal.

2. Serious rest – I’m not talking about a break here and there. I’ve stopped knitting for as long as I need. It’s really difficult. I don’t know how to sit on the couch without doing something. Non-knitters must live awful, boring lives.

3. Advil – My tolerance for pain is about zero out of ten. Research says that gingers are more sensitive to pain so it’s either genetic or I’m a gigantic baby. Either way, Advil brings down any swelling and I can at least go through my day at work without wincing so hard. Don’t forget that just because you’ve now forgotten about the pain that it’s gone. Don’t over do it!

REMEMBER, tingling or numbness is bad. You’ve definitely got to stop and see a doctor then.

Speaking of doctors, I should probably be visiting one myself. Not being able to knit is one of my biggest fears being realized over the last few days as being a complete possibility. I know that is very dramatic but even just having to put my needles away for one day has made me so sad. Knitting is the one thing that I look forward to every day. It makes me rush out the door at 5:00 and I spend every spare moment tweeting to knitter friends, reading craft blogs, and looking at Ravelry. You can’t realize how precious those moments of meditation and relaxation and fulfillment are until you’re without them even for a short period of time.

So I promise, knitting gods, if my little hands heal up quickly,  I promise that I’ll never treat them badly again. I’ll keep the knitting spirit all year long. That’s a promise we should all keep.

What do you do when your wrists start to ache? Have you ever had any bad knitting injuries?

ps. Happy birthday to my mom! A wonderful knitter who knows a thing or two about over-doing it and hurting herself. <3

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Comments (12)

  • November 12, 2013 at 10:41 am |

    This is such a great post! I try to be very careful when my hands tell me they’ve had too much knitting (or typing) because I can definitely do days of knitting if they let me. (And if I ignore that first twinge, then it turns into days of boredom!)

    I really appreciate the link about the exercises, I’ll try those out soon! Though tbh, I feel like a doctor should only be called if pain persists after a week of resting. I’m no medical doctor and have zero medical training, but I tend to get tendonitis easily and doctors just shrug and tell me to rest.

    I also wonder if the size of the needles has something to do with it? (Is that the gauge part you mentioned above?) For the past month I’ve been working on a sweater and I’ve had no problems. I just started a new sweater with larger needles and a chunkier yarn and I have to take breaks every half hour or so or I get shooting tingles up and down my arm. Scary stuff!

    • November 12, 2013 at 10:49 am |

      Yes, I’m probably going to rest a little longer before I go to the doctor. I get really nervous when it comes to my health so I may be over-reacting!

      A lot of people suggest switching between projects with different sized needles. Work on socks and take a break then work on a sweater at the same time. I can definitely see how it would help. Sometimes, though, you’ve got to go cold turkey!

  • November 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm |

    When I was new to knitting I did nothing much else than that. It was my life. Literary. It all led to a nasty wrist inflammation spreading to my elbowe. I changed from the old style stick needles to shorter sock knitting needles (with rubber stoppers in the end to avoid the stitches to slip). That helped some (not having all that weight on the end of the needle) but in the end, I realized I had to get some rest. Apropos it was Christmas and a lot of other stuff to do. I think I had almost two weeks (yeah, I know, that’s a lot of time) without a stitch. But it helped. Since then I’ve always using circular needles or sock needles and it have never been a problem since. But that’s just me 🙂

  • Marta
    November 12, 2013 at 1:17 pm |

    I’ve had an issue this year with pain in my finger joints and knuckles — in my middle finger and thumbs. The pain was so bad that I had to stop knitting for a whole month. For me, it’s associated with the weight of the yarn and, ultimately, the project. So nothing heavier than worsted for me. Another culprit is the stitch. My first painful project was the Herringbone Cowl due to that stitch. Why? I found my grip on the needles was tight and that pulling the one stitch of a k2tog off the needle was horrid. So try to look at what you’ve been doing, project-wise, that may be contributing to the pain. It’s probably a combination of overuse (repetitive motion) and grip.

    • November 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm |

      Interesting point! I have been doing some cabling that might have effected my fingers!

  • November 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

    Great info! I had some pain awhile back and got a nice firm wrist brace that I sleep with when I feel I’ve overdone it a bit that day, because I sometimes end up with my wrists in really odd positions jammed under a pillow when I sleep otherwise. It is very hard to rest, but it’s better than a lifelong injury. So hard to though! Thanks for the link to the stretches.

    I’ve also heard that redheads need more anesthesia, oddly enough.

  • Sherry
    November 12, 2013 at 9:34 pm |

    Good blog! All of that stretching is important to do. A note to say I bought my Futuro’s in CVS for about hat price, so I’m sure they’re “available at a drug store near you”. You should not wear them for a long time either. I try to remember – like icing – 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, 20 minuts on, etc. Also good if if you are doing a lot of typing.

    • November 13, 2013 at 9:21 pm |

      I got mine cheaper, too! 🙂

  • December 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm |

    I’ve had a lot of luck with Aleve, and I usually feel better when I force myself to switch between Continental and English. But, yeah, usually I forget and knit with awful posture for hours and then wonder why I’m so sore…

    Feel better!

  • Jennifer
    December 5, 2013 at 1:33 pm |

    I have been waking up with shooting pains in my right wrist that go up into my neck. I was prescribed an orathapedic carpal tunnel brace and so far I’ve been able to continue my knitting and able to sleep at night.

  • Avril Burton
    December 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm |

    All these pains can be avoided by using bamboo needles all the time. They have flexibility .

  • Linda Sellers
    December 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm |

    bamboo needles are wonderful (that’s all I use) but they won’t prevent repetitive use injuries. I have De Quervain’s Tendinitis because I didn’t stop and rest when I should have. Listen to your body, fellow knitters. If it hurts, stop and give it a rest.

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