Knitting Injuries

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I am not giving medical advice. If you sustain or aggravate an injury due to knitting, you should seek appropriate medical care.

I am only giving my experience as a knitter.

Also, I need to put this out there: The reason that I haven’t posted in over two weeks is because I have had a knitting injury myself, which resulted in a swollen finger, and feeling very sorry for myself.

I have since learned to knit without using that finger, but for a while I also could not type comfortably, because I kept forgetting not to use that finger, and it just made the whole thing worse.

What do you mean “Knitting Injury?”

Repetitive motions can cause stress on the body if you are not careful. With knitting, it can stem from various reasons. It could be posture related, it could be the way you hold or throw your yarn, or it could simply be that you are knitting too much without taking appropriate breaks.

With knitting, the most common complaints seem to be pain in the hands, wrists, elbows, or shoulders.

I’ve had plenty of hand and wrist pain over the years. I figure as long as it is infrequent, and that it gets better with a day or two of rest, that I am probably okay. I’ve never been checked for carpal tunnel, but I would get it checked out if it was persistent.

It’s important to pay attention to your hand and wrist pain, and give yourself a break from knitting if you notice it hurting. Searching out some hand and wrist stretches can also be beneficial.

Pain in the elbow can include tendonitis or cubital tunnel. Cubital tunnel is similar to carpal tunnel, only it involves the ulnar nerve being compressed in the elbow, whereas carpal tunnel involves the median nerve being compressed in the wrist.

A cubital tunnel diagnosis

I thought I would speak a little more on this, since I was diagnosed with cubital tunnel around 5.5 years ago. I have since improved and have mostly kept it from happening again, but at the time, I stopped knitting for about 6 months while my arm was healing.

The cubital tunnel caused immense pain down my forearm, made my pinky and ring finger tingle, and made it painful to grasp anything, such as a pen or knitting needles.

Knitting wasn’t the only cause – I do a lot of things with my hands – but I believe it was an aggravating factor. I have a tendency to lean on that elbow while knitting. Also, bending the elbow more than 90 degrees for an extended period of time, repeatedly, can be a factor. Have you watched your arm posture while knitting? It can be very easy to bend your elbows a lot, so I had to learn to relax my arms into my lap more to keep the pain away. People also often bend their elbows while sleeping. So these are the things I seek to mitigate, because I want to be able to keep knitting without pain!

(I also ended up going to a chiropractor after my cubital tunnel diagnosis, because a standard doctor was completely unhelpful for me. The chiropractor helped me immensely, and also helped me keep any hand or wrist pain in check.)

Pain in the shoulder

So far, I have luckily not experienced this related to knitting, but I have heard that people who throw their yarn a certain way, or even people who crochet using a larger movement, can get shoulder pain.

In this case, I would see if there was another way to knit or crochet, or using smaller movements, as a way to switch off or give the painful shoulder a rest.

Pain in the neck or back

The first thing I would look at is your posture. I know knitting is so relaxing, you might find yourself slouching or hunched over. I also recommend a good backrub, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

Friction from the yarn

I may be the weird one here, but my fingertips or finger pads have really hurt before from the yarn rubbing on them!

It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it makes it really painful to knit. It’s almost like having a blister, except there’s no visible blister.

Most of the time, a few days break from knitting has helped the affected finger(s).

Also, I would love to hear if you’ve had this problem. Sometimes I feel very alone here, since I’ve never heard anyone having this problem before.

The most important ways to avoid a knitting injury

Take breaks!

Stretch, move around, intersperse your knitting between other tasks.

Listen to your body!

Are you starting to feel pain? Don’t ignore it! Figure out what is causing it so that you can deal with it.

For example, I often knit with very small sock needles, so when I am doing a project on much larger needles, it is harder on my hands and they get tired faster. So I know if I’m using large needles, I need to limit my knitting time per day so that I don’t end up with lasting pain.

Some people are the opposite – going from larger needles to small needles can trigger pain.

Another example: A large amount of purling can also trigger hand pain for me. If I don’t pay attention when the pain starts, and I keep working on the same project, I can cause enough pain that makes it last for days, whereas if I put that project down and work on something else for a while, I can come back to that same project the next day and I’m usually okay.

I hope I have given you some things to think about, and hopefully some reminders, so that you don’t knit yourself into an injury!

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