crochet, health, knitting, RSI

RSI and Knitting Part I

It has been requested that I talk a little bit about RSI and some of the things that I do to combat it. Today is part one. Part two, which will include the preventative treatments, will go up on Wednesday.

For those who don’t know, RSI stands for Repetative Stress Injury. Examples of this would be carpal tunnel and tendonitis or tennis elbow; any kind of pain that is associated with a repetative movement such as knitting or typing. My dad had one related to hammering (he does home improvements) which was eventually treated with surgery, but there are plenty of treatments that don’t involve going under the knife.

I am not a doctor. The following are simply a list of things that have worked for me for managing my own pain. Your mileage may vary. Please consult with your physician before starting any kind of treatment plan.

That being said, many of these suggestions are very common treatments, and most were recommended by my mom (former occupational therapy assistant), my chiropractor, and other knitters/crafters suffering from similar ailments.

Okay, so your knitting is causing you pain. The most common pain for knitters is in the wrist (carpel tunnel) and the elbow/forearm (tendonitis). Shoulders can also be bothersome, but those are more difficult to treat on your own. I’m looking mostly at things a knitter can do by themselves at the onset of pain.

First of all, a little reality check. If knitting/crochet causes you pain, STOP DOING IT. Put down the needles, and back way from the yarn.Stubbing your toe hurts. We all know this. So why, for the love of god, would you keep slamming your foot against the wall? This is the same thing. I know you love your knitting, but when you’re causing yourself harm, then you have to step back.

When I was nine years old, I learned to crochet. I did it on and off for a few years, but in high school I started getting really into it. I did a couple of reports on the history, and it became a thing for all of my friends to get a hat, a scarf, and a blanket from me for their birthday or Christmas. I carried my crochet everywhere.

It didn’t take long though, for the pain to set in. I was also an aspiring novelist, and spent a lot of time at the computer. After a while I had trouble just taking notes in class, and when I began studying art it became a challenge to even hold a pencil some days, let alone sketch out a still life.

I learned to knit for several reasons, but preserving my right hand was a big one. I still get pain from time to time, but it hasn’t been that bad in years.

Treating the Pain
So, you’ve set aside your knitting. Now what?

1. There’s no shame in taking a couple of ibprophen. The pain and discomfort is caused by inflammation of the muscles and nerves in the wrist/elbow joint as they rub against your bones. Ibprophen is a better anti-inflamatory than aspirin or acetaminophen, so take one or two. If you find that you need to take more or you find that you are taking it for more than 24-48 hours, then I strongly suggest you stop right now and go see your doctor.

2. Heat is usually recommended for carpel tunnel, but every once in a while I find that cold works better. Wrapping an ice pack in a towel and holding it on the affected area for ten minutes, I’ve found, to be most effective.

3. Wrist braces can be purchased at most pharmacies (CVS, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart all carry them). I find that these are best for sleeping in because of the way they restrict movement, but if I’m in a lot of pain I might wear them around the house for a couple of hours.

4. Let yourself rest. If it hurts, don’t do it. Give yourself a three day vacation from your knitting. Go work on something else. Embroider, sew, bake, read, spin. Try dying if you haven’t yet, or take the opportunity to get some house work done. The important thing is to let that hand and wrist (or elbow) rest.

For my suggestions on preventing the pain in the first place, click here.—–
P.S. You may have noticed a new tab at the top of the page. That’s right, I’m now offering classes–including an introduction to illusion knitting!