At some point, most knitters deal with repetitive stress or carpal tunnel problems, whether mild or severe. Here are some tips that might help to keep your hands and wrists in good knitting condition for many years to come:
Take breaks. When you do, get up, walk around, and stretch out your arms. Reach them up over your head. Loosen up your shoulder and neck muscles.
Stretch. Bend your wrists backwards and gently stretch your muscles. When you stretch, don’t pull many little times and bounce your muscles, but apply constant, steady, gentle pressure for about 10 – 15 seconds at a time.
Listen to your body. When your hands and wrists are aching or starting to ache, stop. Stretch. If you feel shooting pain, you’ve gone too far. Give them a rest until you can resume without pain.
Think in the long term. It’s better to stop before you hurt yourself so you can enjoy many years of knitting.
Repetitive stress is caused by doing the same motion over and over again. So switch motions. Try knitting in another style, like Continental, English, the pencil hold, or Peruvian purling. If you’ve been knitting flat, switch to a project in the round. If you’ve been knitting with worsted weight and relatively big needles, switch to a small-gauge project, like socks or gloves for a while. Switch from a cabled project to some colourwork. That way, you don’t have to stop knitting altogether when your hands get tired. This is what I do, and so far, it works. Because let’s face it, it’s not fun when you have to stop knitting.
Try using different needles. A different size, a different style (straights instead of circulars, perhaps), or even try a different substance, like bamboo or metal. There are even needles that claim to be ergonomically better for your hands, like the square, four-sided needles made by Kollage. (I just bought one in a 32″ circular. I’m going to try it out, just because trying new things is fun. The back of the package is fascinating. It says “The square needles are perfect for knitters who have arthritis, carpal tunnel, or stiffness in their hands and fingers.” I hope to try them tonight.)
There are other products out there to help, like wrist braces that fit like small bracelets and don’t impede your motion. A friend of mine uses them and says they do help.
Keep your hands warm. Protect them from muscle stiffness. Hey, I happen to have a pattern to help with that!
If you’re a tight knitter, Stop It! Try to relax while you’re knitting. Be conscious about how you’re holding your needles and yarn, and if you notice yourself tensing up, make a point of relaxing your shoulders, arms, fingers, hands. If you’re worried about your knitting tension changing, try using a bigger needle size to make up for your new relaxation. An added bonus of relaxing your tension is that it will make your stitches much easier to work with and to slide along your needles.
Sit up straight. Apparently, when you slouch your shoulders forward, it compressed nerves in your neck. This, in turn, affects your arms, wrists, and hands.
What do you think? Have you tried any of these things? Did they work for you? If you have any extra tips to help other knitters, please leave them in the comments.
This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.