5 Knit and Crochet Health Concerns and What You Can Do

5 Knit and Crochet Health Concerns and What You Can Do

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Knitting and crocheting can provide such tremendous health benefits, both mentally and physically, not to mention great pleasure as well. In fact, in Kathryn Vercillo’s book, Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Benefits of Crochetshe documents the health benefits crochet and crafting can provide and how it has helped people heal from a myriad of conditions including depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, chronic pain conditions and more. But along with all the benefits crochet and knitting provide, we still need to be aware of some of the wear and tear it can wreak on our bodies. Here are 5 knit and crochet health concerns and what you can do to combat them:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Neck Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Eye Strain
  • Weight Gain

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Many crocheters and knitters complain about pain, numbness, or a dull aching in their fingers and wrists. This can be caused by the repetitive hand movements involved and from the tension of holding a hook or needle. For many, this manifests as and is diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive strain injury. So what can be done to help? Take frequent breaks where you put down the hook or needles and relax your hands. Do some hand stretches especially geared to help carpal tunnel and repetitive strain injury. You can try the ones in these links …

Stretching Exercises for Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Hand Exercises for Crocheters

And perhaps even try a specially designed ergonomic hook to limit hand tension as you crochet, or you can even make one with polymer clay like I did here. Of those listed below, I have only tried — and can personally vouch for the comfort of — the Addi Swing hooks, but I wanted to give you a selection of what is available (some of the links are my Amazon affiliate links, so you can also help support my blog while shopping :) )

Addi Swing – Ergonomic Crochet Hook

Furls Hooks

Boye Ergonomic Aluminum Crochet Hook

Provo Craft Crochet Tools

Clover 3672 Amour Crochet Hook Set

Lacis Ergonomic Handle

Comfort Grip Crochet Hook

Neck Pain and Back Pain

Sitting for too long and looking down at your project can lead to some painful neck and back issues. It is important that you practice good posture while working. Here are some guidelines for proper positioning:

  • make sure you have a comfortable chair with good back support
  • place your feet flat on the floor and your knees level with or slightly higher than your hips; use a footstool if necessary
  • sit up straight (no slouching! … I have trouble with that one)
  • keep your elbows close to your sides and your project in your lap

Even with good positioning it is important to stretch and move around at the first sign of stiffness or tightness. To stretch and relieve tension in your neck, tilt your head back and then side to side. Try rolling your shoulders a few time to loosen them and your upper back. Make it a point to get up and do something else every half hour or hour or so.

Eye Strain

Just like when you are looking at your computer or tablet too long, keeping your eyes focused on your project for too long can lead to eye strain and even headaches. Again, frequent breaks can help. First, be sure you are working under good lighting. You don’t want to be squinting at those stitches or your pattern! And be sure to change your focus every 20 minutes or so to something more distant … look out the window, at the TV, focus on a figurine you have in the corner.

Weight Gain

I love to just sit and crochet or knit and listen to my books on tape. I can do it for hours lost in my own little blissful world. But let’s face it, crocheting and knitting are very sedentary hobbies, and too much sitting can lead to “crocheter’s toosh” as I playfully call it. Sitting too long even zaps energy from you. With my mother’s advice passed along in my head — “energy begets energy” — I remind myself to keep moving. Exercise is important for everyone, but especially for those of us who enjoy hobbies that aren’t very active. Try to aim for 20 to 30 minutes of brisk exercise every day, whether it be a walk around the block or a stationary bike at the gym. Get up and get that blood pumping! And be sure to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and keep those cravings at bay.

Hopefully with these simple tips you will be able to keep your body healthy and strong to enjoy many, many years of knitting and crocheting ahead!

Do you have any health tips to share? Feel free to comment below and share how you stay healthy.

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31 Responses to 5 Knit and Crochet Health Concerns and What You Can Do

  1. Chris February 19, 2014 at 2:20 am #

    Thank you for this article. Almost any activity, if performed repeatedly for long periods of time, will end up causing ‘tear and wear’ to our bodies. I’m blessed, from this perspective, to have only portions of time I can devote to crochet each day. Though I don’t always think of it as a blessing, I guess it is! ;)

  2. Petra Farmer February 19, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I’m currently dealing with a bout of tenosynovitis. I had a C-section and two more abdominal surgeries and have never complained about the pain. This however, makes me want to cry. It has been months and will probably continue for months. Ouch!

  3. Helen February 19, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    Thank you for a brilliant post

  4. martha February 19, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    Great article!! I recently found out I have carpal tunnel syndrome and right now I can’t crochet at all (per the dr.). If I do keep on crocheting the pain, etc. will get worse. I have a wrist splint I wear at night and am going to pursue the exercises your article suggested. It’s not fun!! I really enjoy crocheting and I make baby items for various organizations. Also make scarves for abused women and hats for maritime sailors. So while crochet saved my life in one way, I now can’t pursue my hobby. Hope it gets better over time with the various remedies I am trying.

  5. Heather Williams-McKenzie February 19, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    Hi!
    I am having a torn rotator cuff repaired this month, so I am trying really hard to have good ergonomics. I also have a yoga practice (that has suffered lately). One thing about yoga is to keep your frame engaged. So, when I crochet, I keep reminding myself to squeeze my shoulder blades together. Sounds weird, but it automatically lengthens your spine and draws your elbows back in. It pull your shoulders back so that you are not rocking the dowager hump as well:)

  6. Sangeetha February 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Wonderful article, Kara. Thank you for sharing this information. Will be looking into the exercises, maybe they will help me with my cervical spondylosis too. :) And I totally agree about the “crocheter’s toosh”… ;)

  7. Kathryn Vercillo February 19, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    Thanks for sharing the link to Crochet Saved My Life and to my article on hand exercises for crocheters. And thanks even more for sharing this terrific, comprehensive, important info for knitters and crocheters. Great article.

  8. Sue February 20, 2014 at 2:07 am #

    I like to walk in place, or crochet on my exercise bike. Obviously not when dealing with a difficult pattern ;). I have carpel tunnel and arthritis flares, but emu oil usually has me back crocheting within the day. Blue Emu from Walmart is great (by the Icy Hot).

  9. Helen Stevens February 20, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    Years ago I taught a friend to crochet, and she gave up smoking as a result! She couldn’t smoke while both hands were occupied. So there are good things that happen when you take up a craft!

  10. Kelly of Simply Kelly Designs March 27, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    I never thought about the effects that our hobbies have on our health. I think these tips would be great for a lot of different hobbies! Thanks for sharing Kara.

    • Kara April 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

      Glad you liked it :)

  11. Andrea May 19, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    Thanks for the tips, I have heard that using the old fashion metal needles does not help as they have no flexabilty in them plastic are best.

  12. Angela May 27, 2014 at 11:41 pm #

    I read in a beading book to always have a glass of water next to you during these long hours of crafting:) then you will be getting up and going to the bathroom and stretching your legs to prevent blood clots.

  13. Tammy L June 1, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    I enjoyed reading the article and found that I already do some of these exercises. The problem I have is that I don’t hold my hook the same way as it seems everyone else does. And I have taught my daughters to hold it the same way as I do. I learned a basic double crochet from a neighbor 27 years ago and the rest from books. I hold my hook not like a pencil, but more like a toddler would hold a spoon before being taught the correct way…lol…kind of like a little shovel. I can crochet fast and tight this way too. I have had several years off and on when I could not crochet at all…leaving me very unhappy and at times tearful!!! I am going to try the Amor Crochet hook set to see if it does help with fatigue. Does anyone else hold thier hook ‘wrong’?

    • Kara June 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

      I don’t think you are necessarily holding it “wrong”. Everyone settles into the grip that feels best for them :)

    • Debbie June 13, 2014 at 3:00 am #

      I crochet exactly the same way and actually made my hand problems better doing it this way. If you want to try a different position buy some writing grips to help teach pencil control. My occupational therapist said if I could use different positions and grips to crochet with it would even out the muscle strain a little.

    • Ilnara June 29, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      You are using the “overhand” method to hold your hook which is not “wrong”. There are two major ways people hold their hook and this is one of them. However there are minor differences for each person because of personal preference. For example, I hold mine in the underhand or pencil way but I also extend my little finger to support my hook.

      Calling the underhand method the pencil way isn’t correct either. My brother-in-law grips his pencil between his two fingers instead of between his thumb and finger.

  14. Monique June 3, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    :)

    you forgot the pony ergonomic needles.. there awesome.. since i use them.. no pain anymore :)

    • Kara June 5, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

      Great tip. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Debbie June 13, 2014 at 2:57 am #

    Excellent article, thanks. People take note of what the article says!!!
    I have just had my second carpal tunnel surgery. Both worked well but are really pretty horrific and can be prevented by a few hand stretches and listening when your body says I’ve had enough of this. I was told I would never use my hands again at one point which would mean no more drawing crochet cooking gardening and all the things that make me happy. It was the worst thing I had ever had to consider. Hands are too precious to damage!

  16. Nikki June 28, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    I’ve developed a small tear in my rotator cuff, and it is directly related to crocheting.

  17. Cyndy September 5, 2014 at 5:30 am #

    On the upside, I crochet to relieve my mild arthritis – engaging my fingers is actually therapy!
    However, the tips provided are very valid. I’m thinking about getting a stationary bike to exercise while crocheting!

    • Kara September 8, 2014 at 10:32 am #

      I am so glad it brings you relief instead of discomfort!! And yes, a stationary bike sounds like a great idea :)

  18. Carla Rae September 28, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    Started on knitting and crochet by my great-grandma when I was 7, had to give it up for a while due to CTS caused by years of office keyboarding. Finally able to pick it back up again without my wrists/hands aching immediately. Here’s a couple of home therapy tips I got from my orthopedic specialist & the therapists. Run these ideas by your doctor first.
    1) avoid “heating/icing” creams like BenGay or IcyHot, all they really do is create a chemical sensation at the skin level which does feel good but doesn’t do much else. Instead, use an anti-inflammatory cream such as Myoflex or Aspercreme (make sure you’re not allergic to aspirin first.) They also aren’t as pungent smelling, and can be used safely with a heating pad.
    2) For the best benefit, use the myoflex/aspercreme right before bedtime. Slather it on, and cover with an old sock – cut the toe off or cut a hole for your thumb – then wrap a heating pad set on ‘low’ around the sock for about 10-15 minutes. The heat helps the anti-inflammatory to be absorbed better. Then, put your brace (if you use one) on over the sock and go to bed so you don’t undo the good you just did by picking up something else to work on. ;-)
    3) Have more than one WIP at a time with different sized hooks or needles, different gauges, different stitches, etc. to provide at least a little bit of variety in the repetition (<– my tip, not the doc's – YMMV, but I find it helps me avoid stiffness)

    • Kara September 28, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      Thank you for the great tips!

  19. Jessica October 3, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    Thanks for the post it really helps!

    • Kara October 3, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      So glad you found it helpful!

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