Chronic Pain and Crafting, Part 3: Exercises and Accessories

While I myself am not a physical therapist, the exercises below are often recommended for crafters to stretch tense muscles and increase strength and flexibility, releasing tension and discomfort and preventing future stress and pain. These should be considered gentle stretches; you should feel a pulling sensation, but not pain. If the movement is painful, stop and consult with a doctor or physical therapist to find and alternate stretch for your body and activity level. I’ve included some variations for those that are either more or less flexible than most. 

  1. Raise your arms above your head, pressing your palms together. Slowly lower your hands to chest level, keeping your palms touching. Hold for 20 seconds. 
  2. Stand upright with your right hand on your waist. Raise your left hand over your head. Keeping your pelvis straight and aligned above your feet, and still facing forward, lean as far to the right as you can. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side. 
  3. Raise your right arm above your head. Bend it at the elbow, behind your head. Place your left palm over your elbow, applying gentle pressure for 10-15 seconds. 
  4. Standing straight, clasp your hands behind your back. Bend forward at the hips, as close to a 90 degree angle as you can get. For a more advanced stretch, keep your palms touching as you do this, rather than just locking your fingers. 
  5. Stand straight, reaching your left hand straight out in front of you. Cross it as far as you can over your shoulder. Bend your right arm at the elbow and use it to pull/hold your left arm in the furthest position you can reach without pain. Repeat on the other side. 
  6. Standing on your left leg, raise your right knee as high as you can. Hold your knee with both hands, gently pulling it toward your chest three times, then repeat on the other side.
    1. Adaptive: Stand with a wall at your back for balance and use both hands to pull your knee toward your chest. This exercise can also be done laying down. 
    2. Adaptive 2: Using a chair or other sturdy piece of furniture for balance, use your left hand to pull your right knee to your chest.
  7. Stand facing a sturdy wall, a little more than arm’s length away. Place your palms flat on the wall, shoulder width apart, feet hip width apart, leaning on your palms. For bonus points, do as many gentle push ups as you can against the wall. 
  8. Advanced: Using a chair, wall, or other sturdy piece of furniture for balance, raise your left arm above your head. Standing on your left foot, raise your right foot behind you. Grasp the inside of your foot with your right hand. Bend forward, ideally until your torso is parallel to the floor. 
  9. Lay on your stomach on the floor or in the middle of a bed (using a bed might be easier if you are less flexible or have mobility issues). Reach your arms out in front of you like superman. Raise your shoulders and feet off the floor/bed so your arms/legs are in the air.
    1. Advanced: bend your knees and reach behind you to grasp your feet or ankles. 
  10. Kneel on the floor. Place your hands on the floor in front of you and slowly slide forward until you are prone. Keep your knees bent and your bottom on your heels.
    1. Adapted: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed or straight out in front of you. Put your hands on the floor in front of you or on your thighs and slowly slide down as far as you can. 

These are all exercises that can be done without any special tools, but if you are looking for something to help, there are plenty of products available, from foam yoga rollers to massage balls. A favorite in my house is actually the Chirp wheel, which you may have seen advertised online. We have the two smallest sizes, which are good for more extreme stretches. The larger of the two is great for cracking and stretching my lower back, but the small one is more of a massager, providing concentrated pressure in the neck and shoulder area to release knots and tension. 

You can also use household objects, like a rolled up towel of firm bolster pillow in place of yoga rollers, or dryer balls in place of massage balls. The last thing I want to discuss is the use of braces, gloves, and other supports. Depending on the type and level of pain you have, something simple and inexpensive like athletic tape or craft gloves might suffice, or you might need a full wrist brace. These can be very annoying to wear while crafting, but are good to wear afterward or at night. Mine have metal supports inside that can be removed for washing. When I need support but also more freedom of movement, I’ll remove these metal pieces and just wear the soft part of the brace.

Like what you see? Check out parts 1 and 2 in this series.