Repetitive and calming, crocheting can be a very effective way to de-stress, wind down and soothe your soul after a hectic day. Over time, however, you may develop pains resulting from the very thing that is soothing about crochet, its repetitiveness.
Common Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI’s) in crocheters are headaches, neck or upper back pain, hand or wrist pain and tendinitis in the elbow and/or shoulder. Luckily RSI’s, are easily managed or prevented by practicing the following tips and exercises regularly:
- Take short breaks often. If watching TV, get up, walk around, do some of the following exercises during commercials. If not, set your phone for a timer every 15 -20 minutes and take a mini-break.
- Make sure you have good lighting.
- Change the project you are working on. Cottons, linens and bamboo fibers have very little give and cause strain on your arms when working with them. Limit your time working with these fibers. Switch to another project that uses ‘springier’ yarns (blends, wools, acrylics, etc.).
Headaches, Neck, Shoulder and Upper Back Pain
Headaches and neck pain after crocheting are usually caused by one of two things, eye strain and neck or upper back strain.
Good lighting is the easiest way to prevent eye strain. Also, by contrasting the background to the yarn you are using, it ensures an easier time seeing your stitches. For example, if you are working with dark colors, drape a light or white cloth or towel across your lap to provide a contrast your yarn.
Neck and upper back pain results from looking down at your work either for long periods or repetitively. During your mini-break, relieve neck tension by flexing your head from side to side (ear towards your shoulder keeping your shoulders down) then forward and back (chin to chest then looking up) 5 times in each direction. To relieve shoulder and upper back tension, roll your shoulders forwards and backwards 5 times in each direction then squeeze your shoulder blades together tightly, count to 10 then relax for a count of 20, repeat 3 times.
Shoulder or Elbow Tendinitis, Wrist or Hand Pain
If you have pain that comes and goes in your shoulder, elbow, wrist or hands or that gets worse while crocheting, you might have developed tendinitis at one or more of your joints. By following these simple exercises, you can relieve your pain and prevent worsening of your symptoms.
Note: If you experience pain all the time, if it wakes you up at night or you can’t sleep due to the pain, see your doctor. It may not be tendinitis or your tendinitis might need medical intervention to resolve the pain.
- Elbow stretch for “Golfers Elbow”: Hold your arm straight out in front of you, palm facing up. With your other hand, gently press your hand down so your fingers point to the floor. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds, slowly release and repeat for other arm.
- Elbow stretch for “Tennis Elbow”: Hold your arm straight out in front of you, palm facing down. With your other hand, gently press your hand down so your fingers point to the floor. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds, slowly release and repeat for other arm.
- Shoulder Tendonitis (“Biceps Tendonitis”): Standing sideways with your sore shoulder side to a wall, with the back of your hand flat on the wall and thumb pointing down, slowly bring your arm up behind you along the wall. Only bring your arm up as high as you can to feel the stretch in the front of your shoulder and upper arm. Hold 30 seconds and slowly release.
Note of caution: Stretching should NOT be painful! If it hurts, you are over-stretching and your pain will worsen. Relax until you only feel the stretch with no pain and then hold.
Wrist and Hand Pain
Tightly squeeze your hands into fists, rotate wrists one direction 5 times. Next, alternately widely open your fingers then squeeze tightly together into fists, repeating 5 times. With your fists squeezed, rotate your wrists the opposite way 5 times. Finally, repeat the flicking-squeezing motion of your hands 5 times. Shake out your wrists and hands.
All these simple exercises and tips take no more than a few minutes to complete and will save you a lot of missed crochet time in the long run. By taking care of yourself, crochet will to continue to be the relaxing and soothing activity you have come to enjoy for your many future projects.