Gosh, it has been years, and I think I blogged about it way back, but I went to this breast cancer awareness knitting event and met up with other bloggers and I was wearing a tank top that said "gin and tonic" (because, eh, why not? Right?) and this dude at one of the booths looked at me and said, "Hey, which one is gin and which one is tonic? Heh heh."
But what really stood out in my mind about this particular event was that the organizers brought in these yoga instructors and led the crowd with several minutes of "Knitting Yoga." Yes, folks, "Knitting . . . Yoga."
I thought the whole thing was ridiculous.
But I was a newbie. A knitting injury? Yeah, right.
Fast forward to today. I have so many injuries, that there are days I can barely function. My right arm falls asleep when I lay down. Sometimes the shooting pains in my pinky and ring fingers are so excrutiating I can't even lift a coffee mug to my mouth without dropping it. And it gets even worse: There are weekends I can't grip a tonic bottle cap firmly enough to open it.
So the other day Lindsay Haas, a physical therapist in San Francisco, who happens to be a knitter and who reads Knit and Tonic wrote me asking if I'd direct my readers to a (really good) article she wrote about knitting ergonomics, I thought, heck yeah. I also thought I'd ask her about a few of my troubles and see if she had some solutions.
I also thought that I'd invite you to, in the comments area, to write a question of your own and we'll select some and feature them here on Knit and Tonic for all to see. I will also give away a copy of my latest book, Custom Knits Accessories to a random participant. The winning name will be randomly selected on February 13th.
Here are my questions and her responses. Hopefully, by reading through these, you'll prevent some of the crazy injuries from which I now suffer. And remember, leave a question for Lindsay of your own in the comments and when you do, you'll automatically be entered to win a free copy of Custom Knits Accessories.
When faced with specific symptoms like yours, I recommend taking breaks even more frequently. Numbness, tingling, and shooting pains are not symptoms to take lightly! If you are experiencing these you should check in with your doctor or physical therapist. For my patients who get those types of symptoms, I recommend logging how long you can knit before the symptoms start. You may need to set a timer for right before your symptoms start and take a break (for example if your hand gets tingly after 13 minutes, take a break after 12.) Realize that resting does not have to take a lot of time, and it can also help keep you focused and more productive when you are knitting.
L: When the symptoms you get while knitting begin to translate into other activities you do (such as sleeping) it is another indicator that you should seek medical help. To help prevent the development of symptoms, there are specific stretches and exercises that you can do to keep everything in balance. One of my favorites is using a foam roller to target stretching and massaging the upper back. Specifically 'rolling' perpendicular to the spine from the shoulders to about your bra line can help relieve pressure from sitting and open up the chest. Neck stretches as well as wrist stretches can help undo all of the chronic posturing you find yourself in after long periods of knitting.
In terms of strengthening, hand and forearm muscle endurance plays a big part. Also important is your shoulder and upper back strength. Trying to squeeze an imaginary pencil between your shoulder blades while sitting up straight will strengthen some of the postural muscles. Exercises such as kneeling on hands and knees and alternating lifting one arm out to the side will also help strengthen the neck and upper back muscles.
Being comfortable when you knit is very important. Unfortunately being comfortable frequently seems to result in putting our bodies in bad positions. If you are sitting in a plush rocking chair with your feet up on an ottoman it is likely that your lower back will become more rounded and you will find yourself sitting more on your tailbone than your sits bones. This encourages a more slumped position, causing your shoulders to hunch forward and your head to tilt forward more. When we are in this position it takes more work for our muscles to hold us in place. It also puts more tension on the nerves in our neck and back, which can be a trigger for getting shooting pain, numbness and tingling. Just as with taking breaks, changing your position as you knit can keep your body from acclimating and relaxing too much into bad posture. Many people benefit from putting a small pillow or rolled up towel behind their lower back, which helps shift your pelvis forward and automatically helps you sit up. And yes, ideally your feet should be on the floor. Watch the position of your knees, they should not be higher than your hips when you are sitting. Your chair can be cushioned and comfortable, you just shouldn’t get swallowed up by it!
*Remember to leave a question in comments for a chance to receive a copy of Custom Knits Accessories.*
BTW: I think I'll have to make an appointment to see a doctor. I'll email Lindsay to ask her which type. Oy.