May 2007 – Crochet without pain!
This has been yet another busy month – I have been crocheting all the time!
Only a year ago, this would have been impossible for me. After a few days, my hands, arms, shoulders and neck would have hurt so much I would have had to stop. Many people can crochet (or knit) to their heart’s content without ever feeling pain or even discomfort. Unfortunately, this is not my case.
I tried to find out how I could crochet more without hurting myself. This month, I want to share my experience with you.
But crochet doesn’t hurt!
No, normally crochet doesn’t hurt. But if you’re unlucky, you can hurt yourself by crocheting too much. I’m not talking about the risk of poking yourself (or someone else) in the eye with your crochet hook, but about what is usually called RSI, or repetitive strain injury.
RSI became familiar to the public when computers became common in people’s homes. But repetitive strain injury can also occur in activities other than clicking your mouse too often for too long. All kinds of small, repetitive movements put strain and stress on our muscles. This can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and many other painful conditions. Yes, all kinds of small, repetitive movements – including crochet.
This is not something you want to think about when you start a new project, full of enthusiasm. I know so well how satisfying it can be to work for hours on end, spurred by my passion and eagerness to see how something turns out. But I also know how frustrating it is not to be able to work on a new project because my thumb or wrist or shoulder simply hurts too much.
I’m not a doctor
I’m not a doctor, and I have no training in the medical field. What I’m writing in this newsletter is not medical advice. I simply want to share my experience. I hope that this will lead you to think about these issues – and perhaps, for some of you, to avoid RSI. If you are already in pain, consult your doctor!
What works for me
At first, when I noticed that nice, cozy evenings on the sofa at my friend’s house with hours of crocheting (and talking!) led to lots of pain, especially in my right thumb, I wondered if I would have to give up crochet altogether. That, however, was impossible. My passion for this craft was such that I had to find another solution. I had to work around the problem.
There are, of course, painkillers and strong-smelling lotions you buy in the drugstore. They can be useful in some situations – but in my opinion, they are certainly not a long-term solution. What I needed (and still need) is prevention. Once the pain is there, the problem gets much bigger.
Yoga proved to be an interesting option. I had taken yoga classes in the past. Today it is difficult for me to attend regular classes, so I do yoga with the help of an excellent DVD, in the quiet of my home. Yoga is great for improving your posture and realigning your entire body. When I practice regularly, it really does me good. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy for me to fit yet another activity into my busy days.
Besides yoga, here are all sorts of simple exercises and movements that can help. It’s a good idea to consult a medical practitioner, such as a physiotherapist, and get advice. A few simple movements, repeated every day, can really help. Even if I had never had any problems with my carpal tunnel, the book End Your Carpal Tunnel Pain Without Surgery, by Kate Montgomery, has been a great help to me. It was recommended on one of the knitting forums I read. There are plenty of other books on the subject that I’m sure can be equally interesting (but I haven’t read them all!).
However, I must admit that I don’t find it very easy to commit to regular, daily practice of yoga or other excercises. I do it for a while and feel great, but then life gets in the way and I stop. There is still help to be found, though, by applying a concept that has become a part of my daily life – I call it the 20-minute rule.
The idea is very simple: Take regular breaks to give those poor muscles a bit of rest. I came across this tip in a (knitting) book by Sally Melville. Sally’s advice is to take at least a five-minute break every 20 minutes. I have adapted this to suit my life-style and fragile muscles, and I take at least a 20-minute break. What I have started to do lately is to crochet for 20 minutes every hour. In between, I take care of the gazillion other tasks that make up my life.
I would love to crochet for hours on end – but I can’t. At least not more than, say, once a week or so. After that, I would need days and days of rest. Instead, I crochet for 20 minutes at a time, and in the end, I get much more done!
Please, if you start to feel pain or discomfort while crocheting – stop. It will not just pass. The pain is a signal that your muscles need to rest. Trying to work anyhow can lead to permanent injury. Taking a break for however long is needed gives you the possibility to continue crocheting for many years to come.
That’s what I intend to do!
See you soon!