How long is TOO long when it comes to sitting and knitting?

Hey there knitters! I know I've been away for awhile, but not to worry! We are back to weekly posts on the blog. This week, we're covering the best supplies and TIME. 

Over the last month, I've been talking to a lot of knitters about the length of time they sit and knit without stopping. It's honestly quite astounding. A vast majority of the knitters I've spoken to will knit for 5 or 6 hours straight without stopping. Don't get me wrong, I TOTALLY get this. I'm definitely not innocent when it comes to this bad habit! Sometimes I'm working on a project with a big deadline, and stopping to even sip some water seems unimaginable---or maybe I'm doing a complicated few rows that require counting and 100% of my concentration! I couldn't possibly be considering putting the needles down and starting up again, what if I forget where I'm at or what stitch pattern I was doing?! 

These are all totally legitimate concerns, but remember, repetitive motion is one of the biggest enemies for the crafter! Breaking up the motion, either by getting up just to get a cup of tea or doing a quick sun salutation can SAVE those hands, shoulders and neck! You should be taking breaks from your knitting every 30 minutes. That might seem a little excessive, but even if it's just to stand up and walk around the house or out to the garden for five minutes, it can be a true lifesaver!

So---let's make sure you're all prepped for a healthy knitting lifestyle. I have an amazing list of things EVERY knitter and crocheter must have in their home to make sure they can get up and stretch it out every 30 minutes, without being concerned about forgetting what's going on in their pattern. These things will help you save time AND your lil' hands! Here are my MUST HAVES for every knitter and crocheter:

1) Pattern tape! This might seem kind of silly or obvious, but teaching in a yarn shop I find that a lot of people don't know about this useful tool. Use this translucent highlighter tape to keep track of where you are in your pattern (so you can go take your breaks!)

2) Invest in a good yarn bowl. Get that yarn off your lap and into a nice bowl! Sometimes I don't want to get up and take a break because I'm holding 6 strands of yarn and doing really complex colorwork and my yarn is all tangled in my lap! Invest in a nice yarn bowl from a fellow maker so getting up is a breeze!! I love these two-hole yarn bowls for my colorwork projects.

3) Magnets are your friends! Often the time when my hands hurt the most is when I'm weaving in ends. If you have to tackle a million ends on your latest project, or perhaps you're a fan of embroidering your knits, a magnetic needle minder will be your new best friend! These trusty tools keep your needles in place to you can put that project down and come back to it later!

4) Sheet protectors. Developed your own way to decipher a stitch pattern and worrying about forgetting it? Keep your patterns in sheet protectors and scribble all over them with dry erase markers (or write on your highlighter tape). It's also a great tip for keeping your place in a chart!

A little bonus...

5) Knitting Moisturizer. I know what you're thinking, 'WTF is she talking about?!' I'm talking about one of my favorite things, moisturizer bars for knitters!! Knitsomniac has some of my favorite scents (just DM her on Instagram for more info). Knitting isn't just hard on your hands! It's hard on your skin too. Take a little five-minute break and moisturize the crap out of your fingers for a little #cuticlecare time. 

Hope you enjoyed this week's post! Next week we'll talk about my favorite activities/stretches/workouts to do during my knitting breaks!

Knitting bowl from ceramiquecote!

Knitting bowl from ceramiquecote!

SuppliesRachel Barish
Posture + Portuguese Knitting

Last week we discussed the signs of RSI vs Carpal Tunnel in the average knitter. This week, we'll explore examples of posture while knitting that can help alleviate pain and fatigue as well as explore my NEW FAVORITE THING--- Portuguese Knitting! As always, if you are in pain, please seek the advice of a doctor before trying any of these techniques. 

There are so many contributing factors to poor posture while knitting or doing any craft with your hands, things that you may not even register or be aware of until it's too late! When it comes to my health, my scoliosis affects my day to day life as a knitter in a fairly drastic way. It has become so debilitating because I ignored the signs of RSI for SO long. Over a period of about six months, I had begun to adjust my posture to make my continental knitting even faster. I was knitting 5-8 hours a day, slumped over on my couch or at a desk chair, I would even knit in my bed, practically doubled over. 

I know this looks so exaggerated, but even after an hour of knitting, I actually start doing this. The key is to be AWARE and monitor your posture. Notice how I am lowering/arching my neck and bringing my hands up.

I know this looks so exaggerated, but even after an hour of knitting, I actually start doing this. The key is to be AWARE and monitor your posture. Notice how I am lowering/arching my neck and bringing my hands up.

What I had begun to make my body do, is lean towards the left side. I would bring my right hand above my left, making my collarbone totally disjointed and the (already present) curve of my spine even more drastic than it was---btw these images are all mirrored. I started realizing that I always had my right leg crossed over my left and that my left hand had started to develop this sort of death grip on my needles. I was knitting VERY tense without being aware of it at all. I love continental knitting, but here's where I think Portuguese Knitting (PK) can be beneficial to everyone.

The adopted posture for Portuguese Knitting (without pin).

The adopted posture for Portuguese Knitting (without pin).

In Portuguese Knitting, the yarn is either wrapped around the neck or around a pin that you pin to your chest. This keeps the yarn tensioned for you so you only have to use the thumb to flick yarn around the needle. This is not going to be a full tutorial on PK, I would highly suggest this tutorial video if you're ready to try it, or better yet, support a local yarn shop or community center and take a class on it like I did! Because your yarn is wrapped around the neck (see above) you're made to keep your hands at the same height, it also keeps you from lowering your neck, as you would lose the tautness of the yarn which is required to knit properly (you can't have any slack or the flick of the thumb won't let you create an actual stitch). 

So what exactly is the takeaway from this? For me, PK is a game changer. It forces me to keep my shoulders at the same height, alleviating the pressure and discomfort I feel in my neck, shoulder blades and collarbone from continental knitting. I wouldn't say I am going to CONSTANTLY use this technique, but I'm definitely going to switch between the two as much as I can. The most common things I hear from people when it comes to pain in knitting is due to incorrect posture. Here is my checklist for the ideal knitting posture:

  • Sit in a straight back chair---feel free to put a pillow under your bum or behind  your lower back
  • Have both feet flat on the floor---don't cross your legs! This automatically curves your spine and moves your shoulders
  • Be aware of where you are holding your needles---they should be naturally resting somewhere in your midsection (between the chest and lap)
  • Keep your eyes down if needed, but not your neck down---your neck should be in the same position if would be if you were talking to someone at eye level and looking directly at them. If you do need to move your chin, it should be tucked in, giving yourself a little double chin is what it's all about! 
  • Keep your shoulders at the same level---if you're throwing your yarn, make sure your shoulders are still always at the same level, this will help avoid strain on your neck and clavical

I hope you got something out of this little mini-lesson! Next week we will delve further into this topic and discuss good exercises for the knitter!

RSI, PostureRachel Barish
Carpal Tunnel or RSI? Let's talk differences!

A little background first...

Hey, guys! I know it's been awhile since I've posted in A Knitter's Guide to Pain Management. Many circumstances of my life, both personal and professional, have taken over and been all-consuming as of late. However, on a trip to The Last Bookstore this weekend, I came across an amazing, super goofy book in the health section entitled It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome! RSI Theory and Therapy for Computer Professionals and was totally inspired! After reading through it, I thought many of the theories and practices could easily be applied to the knitter or crocheter. So this week we are going to talk about the difference between signs of Carpal Tunnel and RSI in the avid knitter and crocheter. As I always state in my posts, if you are experiencing pain please seek advice from your doctor before trying any physical therapy or stretches that could further harm your injury.

What is RSI?

RSI or Repetitive Strain Injury is defined in a multitude of ways. It's a term that has not been well defined in the medical community, and often gets dismissed as doctors can be eager to jump to a Carpal Tunnel diagnosis. For me, the best way to describe RSI is a disorder caused by a combination of muscle and nerve damage due to repetitive motion in the hands, arms or shoulders (the upper extremity) often found in avid computer users, or in my case, knitters. RSI causes pain, fatigue in the stressed area, numbness and loss of strength. RSI and carpal tunnel can often be mistaken for one another because the symptoms are extremely similar!!

RSI vs Carpal Tunnel

So these two are constantly getting mistaken for one another, but what is the actual difference? Carpal Tunnel has to do with the compression of the median nerve *SPECIFICALLY* in the wrist. You may be feeling numbness and tingling in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring fingers, lose the ability to grip objects and have some pain in your arms. RSI sufferers may have pain in their wrists (I definitely do), but that is usually due to other problems that stem from injuries or muscle/nerve damage in all areas across the upper extremity. I was diagnosed with early signs of Carpal Tunnel and was given wrist braces to use while knitting. After a few months of using the braces and thinking I was getting better, I started noticing new pain developing in my neck and shoulder blades. My wrists were being stabilized during the repetitive motion of knitting, and I had adjusted the rest of my body to work around that and basically was trying to protect my wrists by screwing with my posture and making things a lot worse for myself. 

I went to another GP who tested me for Carpal Tunnel and told me he saw no signs of it but did see signs of RSI. I had pain in my forearms, neck, clavicle and lower back. I did have numbness but not in the correct areas of my hands to point towards the compression of the median nerve! I was NOT knitting ergonomically and it was definitely time to make some serious lifestyle changes. 

What can be done?

Luckily, we don't all have to suffer through life this way! There are a few major players when it comes to preventing further injury. 

Identification & Prevention

The best thing for any person who holds a job or hobby that requires the same motion for 50+ hours a week is to recognize that and accept that it could be taking a toll on your body. When it comes to knitting, you should NEVER be knitting for even TWO hours straight. Take frequent breaks to break up that repetitive motion, stand up, walk around, do a couple sun salutations, stretch out those wrists, and then continue on with your project!

If you are starting to notice pain in your wrists, fingers, neck or any part of your upper extremity while knitting, it might be time to look into RSI! If you can catch it early, all you may have to do is some light stretching, develop your upper arm and core strength, posture or style changes for your knitting (switch from Continental to English, or vice versa). If it goes ignored, you may start to feel muscle inflammation on a daily basis. 

RSI is caused by working in a repetitive fashion over a long period of time (years). Your muscles become accustomed, they lock up in whatever position you're knitting in, causing your body to collapse forward and adjust itself from its normal posture. Do you find yourself knitting for hours and realize your head is almost touching your hands, your neck extended as far as it can go or your arms way up higher than they should be? Do you keep your hands in your lap as you knit with your neck pointed down, chin touching it? All of these are BAD habits to form as knitters. 

Finding a Solution

Next week we will discuss different, correct postures for knitters to use to PREVENT RSI from occurring and relieve the current RSI sufferer, such as myself! In the meantime, check out the benefits of switching up your style, or do a little digging into Portuguese Knitting, which can help align posture and prevent knitting fatigue. 

See you next week!

Wrist + Hand Pain

It's time to take care of those wrists, knitters!

For our second installment in A Knitter's Guide to Pain Management, we will be discussing wrist and hand pain for the avid knitter/crocheter. This is where it all starts! If you're experiencing pain in your hands and wrists and do not address it, chances are the pain will spread upwards to your neck and shoulders (like it has for me!!). Your main goal, as a healthy knitting machine, is to take lots of breaks and take care of your hands in the process! This week we will go through different stretching techniques to keep your wrists in tip-top shape so you can avoid getting an RSI, one of the more common injuries for knitters and crocheters. Obviously, I am not a doctor, just a knitter like you! So if you are injured and experiencing severe pain, please visit your doctor and ask about these techniques before trying them yourself. 

Do you knit for hours on end with no breaks, and then when you stop, notice a tingling sensation in your hand, or numbness in your fingertips? This is due to repetitive motion and can be a sign of early stages of carpel tunnel! Make sure you are always taking breaks at least every half hour while you're knitting. If you are feeling like the repetitive motions of knitting are taking too much of a toll on your joints in the wrists or hands, I would high suggest asking your doctor about getting wrist guards to use while you knit. These help immensely to mobilize your joints and protect them from repetitive strain. 

These are a few stretches for your fingers and wrists to do while seated in a straight back chair or butterfly style on the ground with your tailbone pressed to the floor (hips even to the ground). 

Place the back of your hands together and hold them to your chest, stretch out the joints in the back of your wrists and palms but lightly pressing your hands together from the top of the wrist to your fingertips. Take care not to raise your shoulders to your ears---keep them level and low to the ground while you stretch elongate your neck like a line is pulling the top of your head to the sky. Hold for 10 seconds, rest 5 seconds, repeat 3 more times.

 

Place your palms together and hold your hands to your chest (like a prayer pose). Stretch out the joints in the front of your wrists and palms by lightly pressing your hands together from the top of the wrist to your fingertips. Your arms should be parallel to the ground and your hands perfectly perpindicular. Take care not to raise your shoulders to your ears---keep them level and low to the ground while you stretch elongate your neck like a line is pulling the top of your head to the sky. Hold for 10 seconds, rest 5 seconds, repeat 3 more times.

 

 

 

Lift your right arm up and stretch is away from your body keeping it parallel to the floor. With your left hand, press back on your fingers so that your hand stretches the right, your hand perpendicular to the wrist. Breath into the stretch for 10 second. Rest 5 seconds, repeat once more. Repeat again for the left hand. 

 

Lift your right arm up and stretch it away from your body, keeping it parallel to the floor. With your left hand, press down on your fingertips so that your hand is perpendicular to your wrist. Breath into the stretch for 10 second. Rest 5 seconds, repeat once more. Repeat again for the left hand. 

 

Press both hands onto the floor or table palms down in front of your, taking care to stretch out the tendons in your wrist. The trick here is to have your hand and wrist/forearm perfectly at a right angle. Breath in and out as you count to ten. Switch so your palms are face up, fingertips pointing towards your body, and repeat the stretch. 

 

A knitter's guide to pain management

A bit of background first...

 

Hey y'all! If you're anything like me, you probably knit A LOT. I spend anywhere from two to six hours a day knitting. I try to take breaks, do a couple of sun salutations during them, and push forward to finish my projects as quickly as I can! 

I've been dealing with back pain my whole life. I've gone to PT since I was a teenager, but since taking up knitting professionally two years ago, I have used massage therapy as my primary form of treatment for pain. In the last few months, I've been feeling this popping sensation in my collar bone. I feel MAJORLY off kilter (more so than usual considering I have scoliosis and a form of Spina Bifida), so I decided to take further action.

Three weeks ago I began visiting an acupuncturist/chiropractor twice a week on top of getting deep tissue massages biweekly. Luckily for me, acupuncture is covered by health insurance---but I know acupuncture, chiropractor visits and massages can get really expensive and are not for everyone's lifestyle. Because of this, I wanted to start doing weekly posts offering free advice about different exercises/stretches you can do for your pain! Obviously I am not a doctor, just a knitter like you! So if you are injured and experiencing severe pain, please visit your doctor and ask about these techniques before trying them yourself. 

Each week I will cover a different area of the body! This week's topic is the neck. 

Neck stretches for the knitter/crocheter

These stretches are super simple, but really do the trick! If your neck is feeling strained, this could be an easy thing to try on your knitting breaks that also incorporates the shoulders and can help with tension all throughout the neck to the shoulder blades!

While you're doing your stretches, remember to take DEEP breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth! Check out the video at the bottom for how to do all these stretches back to back for your breaks!

 

 

Side to side

Sit in a straight back chair with your feet on the ground, shoulder width apart. Feel free to place a pillow behind your lower back if you wish. Very gently, release your neck and slowly stretch it down to your right side, as if you're trying to touch your ear to the top of your right shoulder. Be careful not to raise your shoulder up as you stretch. It's okay if you don't stretch that far! Take a deep breath in through the nose, as you release let gravity do it's magic and give way to your head moving closer to the shoulder. You should feel a nice stretch on the left side of your neck. Repeat this three times and then switch to the left side!

Correct that over-extension

You may have never noticed this, but it's common for people who are creating things with their hands to subconsciously try to get closer and closer to their work. Maybe you lean over your work, maybe you start off with your knitting resting in your lap and half an hour realize that it's five inches from your face! This exercise is all about correcting that over extension! Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart. Bring two fingers to your neck and gently push your chin towards your body, giving yourself that nice double chin look we all strive for! This may not feel like it's doing much but it's helping to ease that muscle in the back of your neck that's working hard to get your eyeballs closer to your knitting!! Bring your hands down and take a slow, deep breath. Repeat three times.

Arms up, over the head

This stretch will help ease the muscle pain in your neck and shoulders! Stand up, feet shoulder width apart. Bring your arms above your head and clasp your hands together with your forefinger and thumb out in the shape of a revolver (Charlie's Angel style). Stretch your hands up towards the sky while keeping your head center and staring straight ahead, tummy tucked in and feet flat on the ground. Utilize the core to really stretch your neck and shoulders out. Imagine you are trying to hold a pencil between your shoulder blades as you take a deep breath in. Release your breath and let your arms fall. Repeat three times.

 

Bring the shoulder blades together

Standing up with your feet shoulder width apart, bring your arms above your head. Take a breath in and stretch them towards the sky, release them and bring your arms behind your chest, folded like you're about to give someone two VERY intense high fives. Your chest shouldn't be sticking out, try to keep it relaxed while tucking your tummy in and keeping your butt aligned with the top of your head. Breath in and out while keep this pose, squeezing those shouler blades closer and closer together, like you're trying to hold a pillow between the tips of your elbows. Rest there a beat and drop your arms. Repeat three times.

 

 

Rachel Barish