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 Knitting as Therapy
 or: Therapy for Knitting (Injury)?

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
anderknit Posted - 02/10/2013 : 12:35:10 PM
I think I overdid it at holiday time and I am paying the price. My daughter (home from college) and I sat and knit and did a Downton Abbey marathon over the holidays. Such fun! Well, I developed pain in my elbow and forearm, and after several weeks of not knitting, it hasn't gotten any better. I think that computer use, especially the touchpad, is irritating the problem. Since I can't really knit, I have taken the opportunity to get to know my stash again. I am organizing yarn, weighing and documenting and putting away all the leftovers from the past years of projects, and updating my needle inventory (why is it always the Addi's that go missing?) Still ahead is organizing the paper - patterns, notes, etc. It feels good being close to my knitting and it feels really good getting cleaned up and organized, but I can't wait to pick up those needles again.

Does anyone have any advice on healing from one of these overuse injuries?

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' "
12   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
mrsnoache Posted - 04/01/2013 : 7:07:36 PM
After reconstructive shoulder surgery I began knitting the second week; making sure not to move the shoulder and limiting myself to a few minutes at a time. I do not do idle very well. I started with straight needles one resting on my leg or a pillow and throwing with the other hand. I am now three months out and back to my circulars making sure to rest, ice and plan.
Ceil Posted - 03/18/2013 : 9:43:56 PM
Good for you, anderknit, on finding this! That's at least half the battle won right there.

As for the creams, be careful for another reason: Stuff that "gets rid" of pain also >masks< it. You don't want the condition to get worse because you can't feel any pain while you're doing the thing that caused it! To that end, pain is a GOOD indicator, because you'll know you're getting better when you can feel it go away on its own. I've been there: Some years ago I thought an old bike injury was coming back to haunt, and it turned out to be my "clever" Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V trick with one hand on the computer. Both created ulnar deviation in my wrist, and that was the source of the pain. I do those with two hands now.

(Ravelry: ceilr)
Time is never a factor when joy is involved.
anderknit Posted - 03/18/2013 : 06:06:15 AM
I definitely will try the creams recommended. And Ceil, we think that part of my problem is that my wrists are bent "back" when I knit - I don't hold them in the neutral position. That appears to be what put the stress on my forearm and caused the tendonitis. It is the same (wrong) position I tend to use when typing and using my touchpad.

So it's a two-part process - first, I need to rest and let the inflammation heal. No knitting at all - limited computer time, and a wrist brace when I HAVE to be on my computer. Second, I need to strengthen my muscles and un-learn some bad habits (hunching shoulders, slouching, bending wrists back.)

But bottom line again - don't ignore pain, especially as you get a bit older.

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' "
Ceil Posted - 03/17/2013 : 8:15:32 PM
Hi everyone,

As someone who studies injuries in musicians (and knitters), I'm glad Anderknit went to a doctor. Total rest is not the answer; troubleshooting what caused the problem is. My first guess, although I can't be specific, is that some other part of the arm either isn't moving at all, or moving opposite of how the joint is designed. All the PT in the world won't fix that, because the knitting method that caused it is still active. So, I'd recommend troubleshooting the knitting method and making some changes. Hopefully the therapist will be able to help you figure that out by watching you knit.

When I teach Combination knitting, I also look at the How of knitting, and I'll share this one point, which I find to be quite huge: We knit with our arms, not our fingers. HTH!

(Ravelry: ceilr)
Time is never a factor when joy is involved.
ikkivan Posted - 03/15/2013 : 12:56:12 PM
Anderknit, the topical creams such as Zostrix (with that ingredient that makes peppers hot) can be very helpful for dealing with this type of pain. Years ago, when I worked in the composing room of a newspaper before the age of computers, I developed really dreadful "tennis/gardener's elbow" from a procedure I had to perform then. At the same time, my husband had a similar condition in a shoulder and his doctor prescribed Zostrix (OTC) applied four times per day. He could not reach the area properly, so I rubbed it in for him. Since I had it on my fingers anyway, I thought, "What the heck," and wiped my fingers off on my painful elbow. Within a month, I realized my elbow no longer hurt (true, it doesn't work overnight). I couldn't believe it could be something rubbed on from the outside, so I stopped using it on my elbow as a test. In another two weeks, the pain had returned. I started using the cream just for myself as well as my husband's shoulder, and within a few weeks the pain was again gone.

Fortunately, about six months later, I moved to another department where I no longer needed to use my elbow in the same way and discontinued using the Zostrix, but I did continue to use it for that six months and remained pain-free. As I understand, it doesn't "heal" the condition, just helps deal with the pain so you can still use the joint.

Now it helps my arthritic knee!

Warning: if you do try this, keep your treated skin out of the sun, as it will really burn. Not burn as in turning your skin red (well, you won't stay there long enough to find out), just burn as in touching something really hot. This was sometimes a problem if the sun hit my elbow when driving.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
Grand-moogi Posted - 03/15/2013 : 02:30:39 AM
My son is a computer programmer and ended up with RSI. He had dreadful pain and had to stop working in that field. He is back working with computers but without the intense typing on a keyboard that a full time programmer does. He suffered dreadfully. He is one of those people who does not complain until things are really bad. When he was a kid, if he said he felt ill you almost had to call an ambulance because you knew that if he said it, he was dreadfully ill. He seems to have continued like that as an adult. Actually it is not a good way to be. I think people who whinge a bit early in the piece are probably better off in the long run. Anyway he is OK now but I guess it is over a year.

I knit a hug into every stitch
anderknit Posted - 03/14/2013 : 12:34:27 PM
Purlthis, you are correct - it is tennis elbow. Tendonitis, officially. Ugh, CrystalCactus, i don't want to go that surgical route! Robinsteph, thanks for asking - it's no better. I saw an orthopedist and have begun PT (about 3 weeks ago). I have a splint for my wrist when I'm on my computer, and I haven't knit since early January, but it doesn't seem to be healing. I am sad and frustrated, but the physical therapist is a knitter (YAY!) and tells me it will take several months, but it will get better.

So take my advice - if you feel ANY PAIN while you knit, DON'T IGNORE IT! I did, because I wanted to finish a project, and boy am I sorry. If I could take those hours back and spread them out over a few more days, I'd be happily knitting now.

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' "
robinstephanie Posted - 03/14/2013 : 08:47:42 AM
Anderknit, how are your elbow and forearm?


Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
CrystalCactus Posted - 03/14/2013 : 06:56:00 AM
If it doen't get any better, you should see a hand specialist to evaluate your injury. You may need further treatment.
I knit and use the keyboard a lot (I was a software engineer after retiring from nursing), and ended up with carpal tunnel in both hands and cubital tunnel in both elbows! I'm probably the worst case scenario. My hand surgeon said my injuries were from repetitious activity, and from my habit of tucking my knitting needle under my arm. He said a lot of his patients are knitters. He was able to use cortisone injections and night splints for a while, then I elected to have surgery on all four areas to free the trapped nerves.It fixed the problem, but my surgeon said I had to come up with a new way of knitting.I switched to circular needles for everything.
robinstephanie Posted - 02/11/2013 : 09:34:50 AM
If it's inflammatory, icing it should help it calm down. I've also found Traumeel, a topical forumul, very helpful. My doctor recommended it for a calf strain a while back.


Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
Grand-moogi Posted - 02/10/2013 : 4:48:45 PM
I think total rest is the only way to sure it. Then you need to be moderate or careful and not overdo it again. Maybe you could learn to knit a different way and alternate.

I knit a hug into every stitch
purlthis Posted - 02/10/2013 : 1:52:41 PM
Sounds like tennis elbow maybe. You can get a little band that goes on your arm, and helps with the inflammation. They're at every pharmacy. Good luck!

As I get older, I prefer to knit. Tracey Ullman UPDATED! WITH PICS!

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