It’s yet another night and you’re sitting down with your favorite patterns and designs. However, the end result is almost like clockwork: your hands start to experience sharp, stabbing pains that radiate through your fingers and sometimes can send burning sensations through your wrist.
The pain can sometimes be too much to bear and even the most hard-willed determination to push through can end the evening before it ever really started.
This is an unfortunate reality for so many knitters around the world and it has devastating consequences for both the hobby and the knitter’s own personal health.
So many will reach for anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers to find relief. These can sometimes be useful as a temporary measure and under a doctor’s guidance for tackling the immediate and often excruciating pain.
However, they’re by no means addressing the root issues that could very well be exacerbating the situation, to begin with.
Repetitive strain injuries are common in the knitting world and repeatedly overusing our sensitive extremities can lead to more serious conditions further down the line including arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and cubital tunnel syndrome. It’s therefore critically important to take the time to rest and exercise our hands to ensure they stay in tip-top condition.
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Importance of Rest For Knitters
One of the most important aspects of dealing with any sort of repetitive strain injury is to reduce the amount of repetition that’s causing the strain in the first place.
This will mean putting down your knitting needles and taking a break for a short while. While it’s not ideal for an enthusiast, it will mean the sensitive tendons and ligaments that are becoming inflamed through the activity will have a chance to adequately recover from the load and actually have the time to repair the injury that’s developing.
Icing the affected area is also an ideal accompaniment to rest for particularly troublesome injuries since it will help to reduce the inflammation in the area and begin the healing process.
This needn’t necessarily be ice either. Frozen vegetables, diced meat, and other similar food items can make an adequate substitution in a pinch. What’s more, is the different shapes and sizes can work themselves into the affected tissues more easily than ice cubes.
Applying ice to the affected areas and gently massaging in a circular motion will help minimize any discomfort of having something so sharply cold directly applied to an area for extended periods.
It’s important not to apply ice for longer than 20 minutes per session as extended contact to the flesh can damage the already irritated soft issues. It can even lead to frostbite. A thin cloth or towel can help alleviate any issues related to frostbite without affecting the comforting end results of ice therapy.
One session per day is usually all of what’s needed during the healing process for a light injury, but more problematic issues can be dealt with using more frequent icing sessions.
Sessions should be separated by at least three hours when possible to encourage the body’s natural immune response. When the time doesn’t allow this sort of gap or for more heavy overuse injuries, then a minimum of one hour can be used in between icing sessions
The most important takeaway is to not rush the healing process. A repetitive strain injury isn’t something that is going to heal itself overnight.
If you’re a regular knitter, crocheter, or any other similar activity, you must allow at least two to three weeks for the injury to heal. You must also take care not to participate in other activities that may further inflame the affect areas such as typing or any form of repetitive sport.
5 Best Hand Exercises For Knitters and Crocheters
When you feel confident that your injury has been properly rested and you’ve had adequate time for recovery, then it’s high-time to prevent the issue from happening again in the future.
This is best accomplished by strengthening and stretching the affected areas so that you’re better able to withstand the rigors of knitting. Performing any sort of stretching routine should ideally follow all knitting sessions going forward as well.
By incorporating these techniques, it is highly likely that you’ll be able to banish the aches and pains of their hobby forever. It’s finally time to enjoy knitting and crocheting in comfort!
1. Clasped Prayer Hands
You should begin this stretch by interlacing their fingers as if they’re about to pray and draw their elbows close together. The stretch should already make itself apparent through the chest and the uppermost parts of the wrist.
From this position, rotating the base of the hands in a clockwise direction will help loosen the palms, wrists, and the dorsal side of the hands: the three most commonly complained areas for repetitive strain as a direct result of knitting.
You may also choose to alternate the motion into a counterclockwise direction to accomplish the same stretch using a different movement pattern.
Performing the clasped prayer hands stretch will not only give knitters a greater range of motion in their most used areas, but it will also help alleviate any build ups of inflammatory acids in the area.
Reducing these acids helps contribute to healing repetitive strain injuries by moving them out of the affected area and back into the bloodstream. This is by far one of the most effective means of reducing pain and preventing it from happening again in the future.
2. Finger Pulling
When You find your fingers are more routinely affected than other areas of the hand, then gently pulling and rotating the fingers in a slow circular motion can provide relief and help restore the range of motion that’s been lost to a repetitive strain injury.
This stretch is particularly beneficial for those with arthritis as the gripping, tight sensations in the fingers that accompany the condition can be relieved by encouraging a fuller range of motion more regularly.
It isn’t unusual to hear a slight “pop” when performing any finger pull stretch. There is nothing mechanical happening during this sound and it is simply the release of gases found in the joint that provide it with stability and lubrication.
Over time any repetitive strain can cause joints to increase the number of gases they’re holding for added protection under load. This in itself can lead to the tight sensations that many arthritis sufferers complain about. Allow these gases to release can help restore a more optimal balance when combined with adequate rest and recovery times.
3. Thumb Rocking
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a regularly diagnosed repetitive strain injury that affects the thumb and index finger with tight, burning sensations from overuse.
Those affected by the injury should allow their arms to droop down their side with their hands and fingers outstretched.
From here, gently clasping the thumb and supporting the side of the wrist using the available hand will allow you to stretch the median nerve using a gentle pulling motion.
While there’s a very short range of motion in this stretch, the relief is incredible for those who have problematic thumbs and pointers.
Thumb rocking is best discussed with a physician prior to attempting the stretch as other relief measures that may be in place could be compromised by adding greater flexibility to the median nerve.
This might include compression wrist wraps that have been adjusted to suit a patient’s particular anatomical design. The stretch does provide high levels of relief to those who are just beginning the experience the condition and may be enough to control its progression before any medical intervention though.
4. Alternate Prayer Hands
Clasping and joining the fingers will provide exceptional levels of relief to the hand in its entirety, but leaving the hands outstretched and pushing the palms together will more thoroughly target the wrist.
Driving the hands downwards while pushed together will immediately open the supporting tendons and will allow both sides of the wrist to relax in a light stretch.
These areas are common sites for irritation in both carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome, so the stretch can be applied regardless of the injury. Similar to clasped prayer hands, it is also possible to gently rotate pushed prayer hands in a clockwise direction to help stretch the pinky and ring fingers.
5. The Stop Sign
As an accompaniment to the stretches above and to provide general all-purpose relief to the hands and the wrists, it’s hard to beat the stop sign stretch.
It is simple to perform: outstretch the arm with a clenched fist, then open the fingers as if signaling someone to stop and repeat for several repetitions.
The stop sign makes a great “cool down” stretch when it is time to put the knitting needles away for the night.
The stretch opens all of the typically tight areas of the hands and wrists and allows healthy, oxygenated blood to move in and clear any acidic accumulations that will have built up throughout the session.
A knitter’s most important assets are their hands and it’s important to keep them in excellent condition.
Performing these exercises on a regular basis will help alleviate any stress and strain that will have built on the extremities over time, then prevent any future damage from occurring by keeping the supporting structures strong and flexible.
Following this guide will not only ensure a lifetime of knitting but also help support a pain-free lifestyle as a whole by keeping your body nimble and flowing as it should. There is no replacement for adopting good posture techniques, but it’s easy to let these slip at the best of times in the name of finding shortcuts to comfort.
Staying on top of stretching and strengthening procedures will correct these imbalances and keep you knitting for longer.