Knitting is FABULOUS, but at times can cause pain if you're addicted to knitting like me.
For years, I have suffered from pain as a result of knitting too much. I have used ice, heat, sports massages, visited physical therapists, chiropractors and technicians specializing in Active Release Technique (myofascial release). (Please understand that I am NOT a medical professional - but I am sharing what has worked for me.)
In the end, it turns out my pain was not tendonitis, or related to my tendons or ligaments at all. It was muscle overuse. Physical therapists who specialize in myofascial release were able to break up the adhesions and provide instant relief. In the past, I was told to take a break from knitting for a few weeks, which really, I couldn't do. I was so relieved to find therapists specializing in myofascial release who provided a better way to help my body without stopping what I love. During the pandemic however, the option of visiting a therapist was not always available so they provided some stretching exercises that can be done at home.
I've found that taking a break from knitting every hour, and stretching really helps keep my body pain free. There are stretches for your neck, shoulder and back too, but the most important I've found are three vital stretches for the hands and forearms. These are the muscles that do all the work in knitting, especially in your dominate hand.
1. Rest your fingertips of your dominant hand on the palm of your other hand and with your palm, pull the fingers back as far as you can. Once you feel resistance, hold this stretch about 30 seconds. Rest and repeat.
2. Grab ahold of your thumb and pull it back towards the top of your wrist. Hold for about 30 seconds. Rest and repeat.
3. The most important (for me at least) is to stretch the outside of the forearm. This is a little harder to do, but if you create a fist, then with your other hand, pull the fist inwards to the inside of your forearm and hold. The first time I do this, the first doesn't move much. The second time I find that I can get a deeper stretch and you'll notice right away how good it feels. Hold for about 30 seconds. Rest and repeat. This stretch runs from your hand through your elbow which is oftentimes where my pain originates.
Shake out your hands, improve your posture, and resume knitting. Sometimes you don't have 10 minutes to exercise and walk around, so these three, quick exercises can get you back to knitting faster while stretching out the muscles that are doing the most work.
There can be many reasons why we experience pain when knitting, so it's always best to visit a therapist who is knowledgeable in sports medicine. (Yes, I'm the only knitter at my wellness center which caters to runners, and ball players but they treat my injuries much the same as any other athlete.)
Click on the below You Tube link for a short video showing you how to do these.
Knitting is a way of life for many of us. It has meditative qualities, allows you to be productive while watching a movie in the evenings, is relaxing, is a great way to solve problems, and allows you to be creative and produce one-of-a-kind garments that are uniquely yours. The more you knit, the more you want to knit. Knitting 3+ hours a day, every day, of every week of every month for years and years can take it's toll.
Having received diagnosis's for 2 Frozen Shoulders over the years, and having experienced constant pain irritated by knitting, I have made some observations and found remedies which may help other knitters. It has been my experience, that knitting in certain people and conditions, can cause shoulder, bicep and elbow tendinitis. When you continue to work through the pain, the inflammation builds, the pain intensifies, and adhesive capsulitis can set in. NOTE - I am not a doctor or physical therapist. These are my own observations of things that have worked for me.
Before we begin, observe your body after you've been knitting for awhile. Freeze your position and you'll notice your arms are tense. Shoulders are elevated, upper arms are tense and elbows have been in a bent position while working for awhile. Your head is often held down and the center back of your neck is tender. Crocheters tend to have issues with carpal tunnel because of all the wrist movement. It's been my experience that knitters usually don't have a problem with their wrists as much as they do with their forearms, upper arms, and shoulders.
1. If you exercise regularly (by exercise I don't mean knitting) you are less likely to experience pain. Even 100 jumping jacks every day helps strengthen the arm muscles and provide joint stability.
2. Stretching after exercise and while knitting is essential. Take a break from knitting every 30 min. and stretch your arm (bicep, tricep, forearm, shoulder, - move everything around and hold the stretches).
3. Switch to circular needles which allows the weight of the garment to rest on your lap instead of being held by your arms.
4. Wear reading glasses while you knit which allows you to hold your fabric lower and avoid the temptation to work with the garment held mid-tummy or chest level, which adds weight to your arms.
5. Check your posture. Sit up straight and place a pillow behind your back to help with this.
6. Place pillows (or dogs) under each elbow to support arms and take tension off your upper arms.
7. When you have pain, stop. No really, stop knitting. It's a death sentence for addicts, BUT, it's temporary. Take a break for a few days, or however long it takes for the pain to subside. Do something else. Look through books and pick out your next pattern, buy yarn, learn a new technique from a reference book, add a new reference book to your library, make a list of things you want to knit, inventory your supplies, wind hanks of yarn into skeins, visit your LYS and immerse yourself in all things knitting, look online at knitting tutorials, take an online knitting course from Craftsy.com, organize your knitting supplies. Just stop the motion of knitting for a short bit.
8. Get massages. (smile) Not the standard 50 min. massage from the place in the shopping center, but go to a wellness center that has massage therapists who specialize in sports medicine. Tell them about your arm muscle overuse, and have them spend the whole hour on your hands, forearm, upper arm, shoulder and pecs. They will know what to do. By breaking down the fascia, you'll feel better instantly.
9. To alleviate pain:
10. Knit with finer yarns and smaller needles. You won't work as hard knitting with a size 1 needle and flexible fingering yarn as you will with size 10 needles and bulky, stiff yarn.
11. Knit with natural fibers. Pure wool is elastic and easy to work with. Alpaca slides through your fingers effortlessly and is light as air.
12. Avoid cotton.
13. Work on lace patterns and try to stay away from large cables which require more muscle effort as you twist and pull stitches.
Knitting without pain is a given for some people. But for those of us who do experience pain, and sometimes you're just genetically predisposed to tendonitis, there are ways to alleviate the pain the still knit.
By being aware of what's happening, changing your posture and habits, you can continue to knit for a lifetime. Know that if you experience pain, and develop tendinitis, after you rest, stretch, ice, etc .and the pain goes away, it will just come back again after you get back into your knitting routine. This is why improving your posture while knitting, and the way you knit is so important.
I hope you find relief from some of these tips. And please share other tried and true remedies and tricks of the trade that helped you.
Hello! I'm Donna. I enjoy designing knitwear that is artistic, intricate and comfortable. I specialize in sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.