Ergonomics for Knitters

It’s pretty amazing how information you need finds you. I’ve been having hand and forearm pain for a couple of weeks now. I’m wearing my hand brace at night, taking ibuprofen, and icing it, but it still hurts! I’ve been thinking about taking a break from knitting, but I can’t bring myself to seriously consider it.

Yesterday, I got the Fall 2012 issue of Interweave Crochet magazine and I found an article called “No Pain, Just Gain” by Andee Graves! Just what the doctor ordered, if you will.

Here are a couple of exercises from Andee’s article to avoid hand pain from knitting. I’ve done both of three times since discovering them and my hand is feeling better! Amazing!

Wrist and Forearm Extensor/Flexor Table Stretches

Extensor Stretch: Sitting back from your desk, straighten your arms and hold your hands flat. Place the back of your hands along the edge of the table. Bending only at the wrist, with fingers pointing at the floor, press gently into the table edge.

Flexor Stretch: Sitting back from your desk or table, straighten your arms and hold your hands fl at. Place your fingers along the edge of the table, bending only at the wrist, with fingers pointing at the ceiling. Press gently into the table edge.


Hands Tendon Glide
Start with your wrists in a neutral position.

STEP 1: Extend your fingers apart and toward the back of your hand.
STEP 2: Relax the extension and curl the top segment of your fingers to the base of your fingers.
STEP 3: Repeat Step 1.
STEP 4: Relax the extension and fold your fingers to the base of your palm.
STEP 5: Repeat Step 1.
STEP 6: Make tight fists.
STEP 7: Repeat Step 1.



Easy and effective! I’ve really been struggling, so thanks, Interweave Crochet.

By the way, there are lots of wonderful knitting patterns in this issue, too, as always. There’s no reason not to dabble in knit and crochet, so why not try a subscription to Interweave Crochet today?


P.S. Have you ever experienced hand or arm pain? Leave a comment and tell us what you did to cure it!

Other Things You May Like to Check Out:


Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

82 thoughts on “Ergonomics for Knitters

  1. Wait, talk to me about herniated cervical discs, impacting (compulsive) knitting for several months during an “episode” of inflammation. I’ve experimented with different seats, different sitting postures, different needles and different yarn weights, finding that lighter yarns require less “effort”. I’ve also found that “picking” is more comfortable than “throwing”, and that I can vary which hand/arm does the bulk of the moving/work. You might be surprised to find that where you hold your work does make a small, but significant difference. And, just common sense, but I knit for shorter periods, take stretching breaks and stop when it begins to hurt!

  2. No arm or hand pain – but how about shoulder pain? I knit Continental style, which should put less stress on my right shoulder, but it hurts anyway. Any ideas?

  3. i’ve found that using a mouse also contributes to knitting hand pain. i spend time massaging my palms, really digging in with my thumbs. i have to limit the time spent at both the computer and the yarn. that’s going to be difficult come winter.

  4. These are great ecercises! My hand therapist gave me excercises similar to the Tendon Glide above. I also wear finger splints on my right index and ring fingers when I knit, as well as many nights while sleeping. I developed “trigger finger” not while knitting, but by pulling up carpet nails from a sub-floor….

  5. I use my hands a lot – I make jewellery and do a lot of hammered silver work. So during the day I’m using my hands and then knitting/crochet in the evenings. Last year at Christmas (lot of hammering virutally two days straight) and then I was crocheting a lot in the evenings. I developed painful condition which was diagnosed as De Quervains tendosynovitis. Specialist recommended cortisone injection but I was put off by some on-line articles about causing permanent damage. I did loads of visualisation of myself knitting and being painfree. I made up a healing oil to rub in whilst doing that. But the thing that really speeded it up was taking a full sheets of broadsheet newspaper and screwing it up into a tight ball with the affected hand every day without using the other hand. I still do this a few times a week with both hands as a prevention and it has kept me painfree.

  6. I, too, have De Quervains tenosynovitis and several years ago had carpal tunnel surgery. Anti-inflammmatories and rest, a compression glove and brace often help but only temporarily. I’m a photographer and carry a heavy camera on jobs and that hadn’t helped. Rest and hand exercises are pretty essential. Good luck!

  7. Hi!
    I know what you’re talking about! Well, what I do when I have some hand or arm pain I wear a copper bracelet!I’m mexican, and it’s an old popular remedy, well I can say that it works for me (how many psychology is in there? ) just try it, you hav nothing to loose and everything to gain!

  8. Hi Kathy, I sympathize completely with your problem. I participated in a marathon knitting project for our Church right before Christmas, resulting in complete loss of strength and considerable pain. My two middle fingers were excruciating, and I ended up going to an orthopaedic doc, who injected them both with immediate pain relief. They are now “trigger” fingers, and keep locking up on me, which, although not painful, are a “royal pain”!! I have not been able to pick up a set of needles since, and the frustration is a killer!! Thank God I have my embroidery machine. That, I can do with some adaptations.
    I pray you have caught yours before it’s too late. Do the exercises religiously. All knitters should do them. Good luck and God Bless…….Norma Kleer

  9. I didn’t cure it. I am anxious to try these exercises. My right hand cramps and I can’t hold the knitting needle. Straightening my fingers and stretching them helps momentarily but the minute I pick up a needle again, the cramp returns.

  10. My hand sometimes aches when I knit for a long time and I practice something similar to the tendon excercises you share with us – stretching my fingers, rolling them up, etc. I also hang my hands at my side and shake them loosely. I have read that knitters should alternate between continental knitting and throwing because you use different muscles.

  11. Exercises for Knitters

    Yes, I have a lot of wrist and hand pain from spinning, knitting and weaving (mainly knitting though). Not quite carpal tunnel but it feels like it sometimes, especially at night when the pain wakes me up.

    I found the first two exercises you describe (pressing fingers on desk) on YouTube a few months ago – the clip was made by a guy who is a musician and finds his hands cramp up a lot. It works well.

    My daughter who does have carpal tunnel does this one too and reckons it helps.

    The exercises really work well!

  12. I have a painful index finger knuckle (I think perhaps arthritis). Since I use the American technique I am a ‘thrower’ and I was also thinking I had to set down my needles for awhile. However, a friend turned me on to Portuguese knitting. Andrea Wong is the woman to watch if you want to learn- and I promise you it is fantastic. Most of the action is with the thumb of my left hand! so my sore finger is basking in idle comfort and I am knitting away like the devil needs a scarf. You gotta give this a try

  13. I strongly recommend against NSAIDS. If you google you will find lots of info about side effects and can even cause further inflammation. I did use slow release paracetamol when really needing a break to sleep. There are natural supplements like turmeric, boswellia, omega oils and so on to help joint, tendon pain and repair. Acupuncture helps me – I had frozen shoulder/RSI and if I overdue anything, it helps keep pain and recurrence under control. There is also massage that can help release the muscles.
    Short sessions, breaks and stretching!

  14. I went to physical therapy for a while. They had an embroidery hoop with a burst balloon on it. There were holes in the burst balloon. You put your fingers in the holes and stretched out the balloon as far as you could. Start with 5 times, then to 10, then start holding it outward for a count of 5, then 10…etc…until the tendonitis goes away.

  15. There can be many causes for this pain. Stretching, ice, meds and rest all play a role in control. Schedule the rest and stretch sessions hourly. Add chest and neck stretches. Your head weighs 8 pounds and tends to fall forward and pull on your neck back and shoulders and shorten the front muscles of the neck and chest.

    Questions to ask yourself: How am I sitting? Look at pictures of knitters from the 40’s. Do you look like that. Sitting tall, shoulders down and back, head erect and centered not bent forward, feet flat on the floor and the knitting in front of you at chest level. Do you knit English or Continental? Are your wrists straight? Have you ever had whiplash? Do you have neck or shoulder pain? Do you clench your teeth?

    The pain is probably from repetitive motion. Find a physical therapist or massage therapist. Yoga will help also.

    I’m a massage therapist in MA and have developed a massage routine specifically targeted for crafters.

    Kathy Provenzano

  16. I just finished two months of occupational theraphy on my thumbs and forearm, so I understand what your going thru. At theray they massaged the thumb and arm with “Arnicare” cream – which you can get on line or thru your pharmacy or health food store – I too take ibfrofin, but don’t like taking pills that much. I massage my thumb twice aday and the Arnicare helps. I have a neoprene brace that I got thru prescription and that helps when knitting. I will never give up, slow down if I have to but not give up. the Arnicare is natural and not expensive – try Puritan on line to purchase it. Good luck and keep knitting

    Linda Hopps

  17. I have rheumatoid arthritis, sometimes severe during flares. I have recently started knitting (about 6 months) I tried the continental way of knitting because it seemed a little more efficient to me. It has taken a month or so, but it has really helped my pain. My doctor also is playing around with some meds that I have never tried. The thought of giving up knitting at this point really makes me unhappy and I really like that I am now producing some pretty good things. I find that taking breaks, washing dishes in hot water before really relaxes me for my knitting projects. These exercises will become part of my routine. Hope this all works for you.

  18. I have numbness, pins and needles, and pain all along the pads of both my thumbs all the time, and the same in my middle fingers and cramp-type pains in my forearms when it gets bad. I can’t pick up books and binders very well; they have the tendency to fly out of my hands, which is particularly bad since I’m a nurse, and I’ve caused patients’ charts to crack apart and scatter everywhere.

    I tolerate it mostly. braces can help, but I wore out the one that worked the best for me, and haven’t found another. I also try to alternate knitting and crocheting, and that keeps me stitching every day. and then I try to remember to grab charts and books with both hands.

  19. I have numbness, pins and needles, and pain all along the pads of both my thumbs all the time, and the same in my middle fingers and cramp-type pains in my forearms when it gets bad. I can’t pick up books and binders very well; they have the tendency to fly out of my hands, which is particularly bad since I’m a nurse, and I’ve caused patients’ charts to crack apart and scatter everywhere.

    I tolerate it mostly. braces can help, but I wore out the one that worked the best for me, and haven’t found another. I also try to alternate knitting and crocheting, and that keeps me stitching every day. and then I try to remember to grab charts and books with both hands.

  20. My problem is shoulder pain, rotator cuff. Any suggestions? I do find that if I knit at a table, resting my arms on the surface, it helps.
    Also computer mouse + Kindle + knitting = pain in wrist……
    What to do?

  21. Last year I had a problem with pain in my wrists after knitting some swatches. I don’t usually have any pain at all, and knit nearly every day… I discovered that my problem was caused by knitting with straight needles. I use circular needles for everything, and only picked up the straights for the swatches (the needles were a gift)… anyway, after switching back to the circulars, my pain disappeared. The tools you use are very important.

  22. I, too, have hand problems which the doctor told me is osteo-arthritis. I refuse to give up knitting or any other fiber arts. So… I discovered KOLLAGE SQUARE NEEDLES by accident. They are the best invention since chocolate. I have no investment in the company; just love the needles. They are light weight and easy to hold, but put no stress on your hands! Would love to know if others have tried them.

  23. I was having excruciating forearm pain that radiated from my shoulder to my hand and wrist. I kept telling my doc I thought it was mechanical, but he didn’t listen.I was sent to a specialist, and was tested for everything under the sun (lupus to fibromyalgia and arthritis and more), shot with cortisone and sent home to ‘live with it’. At that point, I talked to a chiropractor. She started treating my C 5-6 and within a few days, I was better. After a couple of weeks, I was nearly pain-free with full range of motion back. I’d recommend checking your neck, too!

  24. I found a wonderful salve from Fountain of Life, LLC. It’s called Arthritis Salve. This is the stuff I reach for everytime. It is made with organic or wild harvested ingredients. Their website is

  25. Kathleen, thank you so much for the hand exercises. It’s just what I need. I have osteo-arthritis in my hands, but still want to knit and crochet. This will really help!

  26. I knit one of EZ’s Adult Surprise sweaters in the car on a long trip and ended up with bursitis in my left elbow. Of course the doctor wanted me to stop knitting BUT….. To make a long story short I ended up with MRSA in the elbow – 3 surgeries, and 6 months of not bending the elbow. Hard to knit that way. So be careful, pause, stretch, relax and take care of your best asset, your hands.

  27. I have had 2 episodes over several yrs of neck/shoulder/arm spasm & pain. Too much knitting and “mouse” use caused repetitive motion injury. Physical Therapist are the best and set me up with stretches, strength training, proper knitting positions, massage and ice. It took 6 months each time to be pain free. Frequent breaks are a must – no more marathon knitting. Yoga positions that open the chest got me out of the constant forward, closed position. Anytime I start having the old familiar pain I increase my stretching, take a look at my knitting position and shorten my knitting time. Also back stroke swimming feels great to me. Pay attention to any pain your having while knitting or other repetitive motion- it can get out of hand quickly if your not careful.

  28. No problems with my hands or wrists, but I do have “knitter’s elbow” in my right elbow. I’m a thrower, but don’t think I do a lot of repetitive motion from the elbow, so I am not sure why that is where I am feeling it. Rest does help, but I’d prefer something magical so I can knit without taking weeks off. Any ideas?

  29. A doctor told me some 15 years ago to “knit less,” but THAT wasn’t going to happen. Eventually I found a truly fabulous chiropractor (Dr. Edward Beck of Capitol Rehab in Arlington, VA if you’re in the DC area) who routinely treats both sources of pain – back and neck, which pinch nerves, and right forearm where inflammation and various related problems develop. He knows where to stick his thumb into my forearm for a really, really deep tissue massage that isn’t comfortable, but when he’s done, the pain is GONE! I still knit as much as I can (and spin and occasionally crochet as well) and have had almost no pain – and no pain at all that lasted past my next appointment with the chiro – in years!

  30. From knitting, I developed a trigger finger, the ring finger on the right hand. It became so painful I had to get a cortisone shot vs. the surgery the Dr. suggested. However, I still have occasional pain between third and fourth fingers in the palm of my hand.

  31. I too have had pain in the hand, forearm and elbow. I’ve tried the resting, icing, bracing, chiropractor, exercises, and just about anything else I can think of. What has finally helped the most is every January I set up my yearly “budget” of crafting (knitting, crocheting, quilting, sewing, etc…..) for the year. I’m very realistic about my goals, and I have to be very hard on myself by saying “no” to new ideas, or be willing to let go of a planned item of like time usage. I always try to leave a bit of time for any emergency needs, but anything that is not an actual gift already in the budget is usually for the future gift bins. There are still some days that the ice and wrist brace at night are needed, but it is for a much shorter duration, and much less painful. As it is said – Moderation in ALL things.

  32. Thank you for these exercises. I started knitting a couple years ago and find it very addictive and forget that this will be a source of repetitive strain. I just performed these exercises and was surprised to note that my fingers and hands were somewhat tight! I am trying hard to be cognizant to relax my fingers; change positions and take breaks. Thanks again! Trish

  33. I am 47 and recently had a CMC arthroplasty and carpal tunnel release (basically complete thumb joint replacement and the release) this is a 6-12 month complete recovery. Knitting has actually helped my healing process. Several of the exercises above I have been given for physical therapy. They are very helpful. Interestingly enough though, knitting itself has been very therapeutic. The reason being I taught myself continental knitting. It seems to be more ergonomic than English knitting of picking and throwing. I can knit for hours continental. English tends to cause tiring of the joints. Just my 2 cents.

  34. I’ve also experienced pain from too much knitting. While exercises and therapy after the fact are helpful, the best approach would be finding practices that avoid the problem in the first place. For starters, finding good seating is relatively easy. Has anyone ever found any research on whether Continental, English or another style knitting is less likely to cause fatigue and pain? I tried an Internet search and found nothing on such research or motion studies. There are tons of studies on athletics and how changes, often subtle, in technique can prevent sports injuries. Does anyone know of any research?

  35. Thank you for this forum!!!! Ok, so I get pain in my shoulders and neck as well as pain in my hands/wrists – I’m doing your stretches to see if the hand issue goes away. What helps with the neck issues, and would help with elbow issues as well, is RESTING MY ELBOWS ON 2 THROW PILLOWS THAT ARE THE HEIGHT OF MY ELBOWS WHEN KNITTING. I can’t tell you how much this has helped me – so much that when I’m away from my pillows, say on vacation, I think about them constantly! I sincerely hope this helps someone else.

    I have told myself that when I can no longer knit continental I’ll learn Portuguese, their method supposedly decreases carpal tunnel issues. I’d just have to learn how to knit inside-out and wrap the yarn around my neck : )

  36. As a massage therapist I’m faced with plenty of repetitive motion injuries, aches, and pains. In my practice I teach my clients not only to minimize the injuries by stretching and limitations of the actions but also teaching how posture is a factor in causing aches and pains.
    As a knitter I can apply these stretches and posture techniques to help minimize pain while knitting.
    Today’s posture usually sees people hunched over with a rounded back, arms and shoulders locked in a high position. Look at the people around you, your significant other or better yet your teenagers. When they sit and watch TV, look at them at a profile/sideways, can you see “C”? The head forward and drooping down, the shoulders hunched forward, the back rounded. If you pull their legs to their chest you would see them in what is commonly known as “fetal position”. But they are sitting in a chair, how comfortable could the fetal position be sitting in a chair?? Even if they are leaning back into the couch, follow the “C” all the way into their pelvis. You will easily be able to see the distinct slouch.
    Look at the runner that goes down your street. As they swing their arms back and forth how high their shoulders, their arms? Are their shoulder almost toughing their ears?
    The slouch in the body compresses on the bones and shortens the lengths of the muscles. While the amount of force it take to hold your shoulders against your ears and to hold your forearms against your chest tightens the muscles to the point of pain and injury to the body.
    As you are knitting you may or a may not be doing the same things: slouching, holding tension in your forearms to keep your knitting in midair, holding your shoulders tight and high. Your muscles are strong but they are not made of steel. Your muscles will get fatigued after a while; and faster if it’s a repetitive action. Simple changes in your posture and the way you hold your arms as you knit can help alleviate pain, and future injury.
    First and foremost look at how you are sitting; be absolutely conscious of how you sit. Are you slouching, are you leaning back so your lower back is arched, are you putting your weight on one side of your body while you lean to the left or right? How about your arms, are you holding them up to hoover in midair while you knit, are you resting them on an arm rest?
    Start by sitting up straight in your chair. Sitting straight means you are evenly distributing your weight on the under part of your bottom and the back side of your thighs. For reference to women, protect your lady parts by sitting on them; rotate your pelvis forward so they are safely tucked under you. Try not to sit with your pelvis tucked under which causes you to sit on your tail bone.
    When you put your pelvis in the right position you will notice the slouch!! Straighten your spine by drawing the top of your head to the celling. This will cause your chest to puff out but with practice you will be able to control your abs a little better and have a straight spine without the Popeye chest.
    Secondly and where many of you are having problems is the arms and shoulders. Relax your shoulders as you knit. Pull them down towards the ground so you can feel the stretch in your neck. Same with your forearms, relax them towards the ground; maybe rest them on the arms of a chair.
    Here is a little exercise:
    Have someone stand above you with their hands on your shoulders as you knit. Have them hold your shoulders down so that your clavicle (the bone and the base of your neck) is straight across, shoulder to shoulder. Instruct them not to let your clavicles move up or down. Start knitting as you normally do: Are you having trouble knitting because of the position of your shoulders? Is your spotter fighting against you to keep your shoulders down because you are unconsciously raising them?
    Think about the tightness in your shoulders and all the work your body is doing to keep them up as you knit!!! Consciously relax this, rest your arms on an arm chair, and allow the chair to hold you’re knitting up while you let any tension your forearms to melt away.
    For those of you who find relieve by changing your needle styles, i.e.: straight needles to circular needles, does your posture change with the needle change? Are your wrist “tweaked” a different way?
    If your muscles are tight they are straining to keep a position, the strain will eventually lead to pain and injury. Although there are many exercise and techniques to improve your posture when you knit these simple techniques will help reduce the strain and keep you knitting for that much longer.

  37. I was having a lot of thumb pain from all of the knitting and crocheting I was doing. After seeing an orthopaedic surgeon (who gave me a cortisone shot in the thumb), I was still in pain. Having heard about the benefits of taking turmeric supplements on Dr. Oz’s show, I decided to give it a try. I only take 1 or 2 tablets a day with meals and they really worked. The thumb pain is gone! Good luck to the rest of you who are suffering with repetitive-use injuries like me. This stuff is miraculous. You can also use it as a spice on your food, as the folks from India do.

  38. When I first experience the numbing and tingling feeling in my fingers and/or arm, I went to see my Chiropractor and explained my problem. With one adjustment, I was on my way. So, whenever this happens, I go see my chiropractor. I have not had many problems since then either.

  39. Well, my heart goes out to all of you.

    I’m a musician who studies body-use issues (ceilr on Ravelry), and so look at hands and arms all the time, because they have a bearing on musical sound. Imho, the good these exercises are meant to do can become negated quickly by hands and arms tensing up shortly after knitting/crocheting resumes!

    I teach people to knit without pain (and include some talk about computer use). The best thing I can tell them is that we knit, not with our fingers, hands or even our needles, but with our ARMS. There could well be some serious mismaps of the arm joints going on with those of you who are hurting, which I’m not about to discuss here because the solutions are vast, based upon each habit.

    I don’t do any exercises at all and knit for hours, because I seem to “shake out” >while I knit<. This isn't luck or heredity; it's intentional! Kathleen, perhaps I might write another article on moving while one knits/crochets? ceilr on Ravelry

  40. I was getting tendionitis in my wrist and thumb from knitting. I bought a good quality magnetic bracelet (copper plus 2 other metals so very attractive) 3 or 4 yrs. ago. I haven’t had a problem since. I wear it day and night and knit many hours most days. Amazing!

  41. I never get beyond the warning twinges — because as soon as the twinges announce themselves, I switch from the probable cause (socks at a very firm tension) to something on a gentler tension, like running off a few motifs of modular hexagons for a blanket. That example means a change from 2.75 mm needles to 3.5 mm. And I have always done a version of the exercises, and another exercise I have found helpful is to hold a very light dumbell in each hand, hold the hands ‘back up’ in front, and slooowly roll the weight up and down at the wrist joint, then turn ‘palms up’ and repeat. By the way , I am 68, and literally do not remember learning to knit, so I have had plenty of time to develop problems,

    Gae, in Callala Bay

  42. I began knitting non-stop and now have a lot of hand,wrist and forearm pain.
    Have been using a glucosomine cream and it helps a lot, only trouble is I thought I would try knitting again and now I am back with the pain just as bad as before.
    A friend’s mother had the same problem and ended up having surgery.
    I think I will stop knitting until it gets better.

  43. Elbow and shoulder pains? Drop the straight needles and work back and forth on circulars.

    To quote my physiotherapist: “Anyone still selling straights should be forced to sit through three lectures on weights, fulcrums, and levers!”

  44. I used to have numbness/pain down both arms while sleeping. I wore wrist braces every evening to bed. Now, I no longer have the pain or numbness and DO NOT wear the braces. My remedy was to take better care of my neck. I use a memory foam contoured pillow, sleep on my back, and do very simple quick neck exercises 2-3 times throughout the day that my doctor recommended. (I make sure I hold the phone while talking, instead of resting it on my shoulder with my head tilted to the side….not good neck posture.) I feel great!!!!

  45. Kathleen,

    I have used a supplement called Silica. It is a mineral and it repairs the tendon. Taken with Calcium, which repairs the bones, it works wonders. I had severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome years ago and this supplement combination made the pain go away and strengthened the area.

  46. These are great! Ladyiynh — fantastic information on posture. I knit and am a musician and as of late have been having a great deal of pain — back, shoulders and down my arms. Most disturbing is the pain in my arms and hands – especially when I sleep. I hoping with these simple exercises and other medical therapies will help. Great forum.


  48. For imabusybee: I am a physician assistant in orthopaedic surgery, and an avid knitter. Your “knitters elbow” is likely a function of your wrist extensors. The repetitive wrist extension in knitting can cause pain at the lateral elbow. Some gentle strengthening exercises for your wrist will likely help. While you are working on strengthening, because that takes a minimum of 6wks., try wearing an elbow strap for tennis elbow when you knit.

  49. I also had forearm pain bad enough to make me consider not knitting. As a physiologist, I know that part of rehabbing from an injury involves strengthening the injured muscles as well as stretching. I supported my forearm on the arm of my chair, then moved just my wrist up and down while holding a half pound weight, first with my palm facing down and then facing up. Made a big difference for me and I can knit without pain now. Good luck!

  50. Good news Ladies, don’t stop doing what you love. I am an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist.
    First, from the occupational therapy point of view, there is so much to be gained by doing what is meaniful to you, so knit and crochet!!
    From the hand therapist perspective, the stretching offered is a great place to start, and so many have added to the discussion with valid solutions, starting with posture, knit in moderation, alternate between a few projects at the time time, ( usually no more that 3 so that you have that feeling of accomplishment!) but by alternating you use different muscles, different tension on either your elbows, wrists, and thumbs.) Read the other comments, great suggestions, switch to circular needles, alternate between knit ( uses more thumbs, fingers, and crochet more wrist), projects with larger needles, take stretch breaks, learn different techniques.
    Knowing where the pain is helps identify what your problem is. The discussion has been connected by common problem of limiting your ability to knit without discomfort.
    Treatments to vary by diagnosis whether it is from the neck, elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, DeQuervains, over use syndrome, etc.
    In general seek treatment from a doctor first who specializes in the treatment of hand problems, they will direct you to a therapist who specializes in hand therapy. The ASHT ( American Society of Hand Therapists) has a directory to locate a hand therapist near you). Hand therapist know who the appropriate doctors are in your area!!
    Also find a good massage therapist, benefits more than just your arms and hands.
    Another good rule to follow is that if your pain is between a 7-10 out of 10 ( with 10 being pain so bad you want to go to emergency room) you NEED to rest from the activity causing the pain, reduce the swelling: can be injection which done correctly may eliminate your problem entirely, to use a splint for certain period of time, applying ice.
    If the pain is between 4-6 out of ten is when stretching can be started. Stretches then should become daily routine.
    When the pain is below a 3 strengthening can begin, resume the activity in moderation.
    ps, I practice what I preach. When the thumbs are sore from work and knitting, I take a break and read a knitting mystery. Also remain healthy through diet, exercise (yoga) drink plenty of water, sleep well!

  51. Find the large thick rubber bands like the postman uses, preferably new ones. Put it/them around your fingers and thumb on one hand at a time, close as possible to the tips and pull your fingers wider feeling the tension from the rubberband. It uses the opposite muscles in the fingers from normal holding positions of the knitting needles, crochet hook, yarn, roving, felting needles or even pencils!

  52. I’ve read through this forum looking for my problem which is not pain, but what looks just like my mother’s lymph edema (sp?). Over the last couple of years, after I knit or crochet for a couple of hours, I find I have warm red splotches on the back of my lower arms. I crocheted a large afghan for a wedding gift this past summer, so was working under time constraints, and found that if I wore rather inexpensive compression sleeves while I worked that I pretty much had no problem, but I’m wondering what I’m doing that has suddenly caused this (besides knitting/crocheting for hours, which is no change for me at all).

    Anyone else have experience with this? Suggestions?

  53. I’m nearly 70, so arthritis is to be expected. Sore thumbs were helped with fingerless gloves, but what helps everyting is swimming. The stretch when swimming freestyle helps shoulders and elbows, and sometimes I use my hands like “step 1” of the hands-tendon-glide (above)… not an efficient swim technique, but it really, really feels good and helps me knit. Bet you could do the same in your bathtub!

  54. I have “tennis elbow” in both arms right now, but my right is much worse. I have been icing it and taking ibuprofen, but I NEED to try these exercises! As you said, it’s amazing how information you need finds you. Give up knitting??? I’d rather give up breathing!

  55. I have had carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis in the thumb joint in both hands — worse in my right all though I am left handed. After trying sleeping with splints the cp in my left hand has all but vannished but the right saw minimal improvement. For the arthritis we tried steroid shots in the right thumb joint and a topical nsaid for the left. The left improved but not the right. I realized I was not doing as much needlework as I wanted to because of the arthritis pain and became determined to do whatever I had to do to get relief. My doctor discussed joint replacement — I have an artificial knee but I did not know they could do a thumb. It is actually done with a slice of the tendon that comes down the forearm towards the thumb (it will grow back). I had it done 6 weeks ago (he fixed the carpal tunnel at the same time) and just started 6 weeks of therapy. I am unable to do any needle work yet but am working towards the when I can do it pain-free. The surgery seems to have been successful, the therapist is pleased with the results so far — the future looks bright! Who knew such a thing could be fixed?

  56. I have had carpal tunnel brought on during pregnancy, whiplash and TMJ from a bad car accident when I was 25 years old, causing chronic soft tissue damage in my neck, shoulders and back. At 52 years of age, I have developed some joint pain in my fingers on both hands. I am healthy otherwise and I am not on any prescribed medication. I, too, experience pain while knitting and crocheting and not always under the same circumstances. But it is disappointing and even depressing when I can’t do what I love or I won’t because I think it is going to hurt or because I just don’t feel good.

    Posture is very important as I have read in many of the comments. So I make sure I check my posture regularly.

    Switching from knitting to crochet is awesome and fun. It’s good to mix it up a little.

    I learned Continental knitting from YouTube and hardly do American but sometimes it’s necessary … picking instead of throwing seems to be less strenuous on the shoulders and neck, fingers and wrists.

    It is also gratifying to know different techniques. I can’t wait to learn the Portuguese style as mentioned in one of these comments. I have seen it and tried it but can’t remember exactly how it is done. I love knitting so much that I have come to the conclusion that learning as many techniques as possible is the same as “continuing education” in any other hobby or profession.

    Sock knitting is lightweight and can travel with you any where … it is fun and worth learning. There are soooooo many sock techniques that you may never have to knit the same pair twice. I have more sock knitting books than I will ever be able to knit up but the socks are beautiful and it is fun to read about them. My favorite is two at a time from cuff to toe. My goal is to be able to translate any sock pattern to this technique.

    Scarf knitting is fun and lightweight as well. Especially lace. I found that a pattern with no more than four rows is good to travel with. Anymore than that can be challenging for me. I have some great pattern books. I also knit or crochet cotton rags or hand towels for Mom when I need to have a quick sense of accomplishment.

    I also save any FREE knitting book or pattern from knitting daily … I have all of them in a file. I am a member of some online knitting sites. Sometimes I just look at them and see what others have done or what I might like to do next.

    I do hot yoga (Bikram) because the heat really helps loosen my joints while stretching and strengthening. Any Yoga is good because it is low impact and will not hurt your joints if you warm up first. I am making a list of all the awesome hand exercises in these comments … I really love the rubber band one. I am a CPT and have cured rotator cuff problems with a BIG rubber band and a SMALL movement … so this little rubber band will be cute and fun.

    I have also discovered that for myself, being cold hurts my joints. In fact, it makes me feel uncomfortable and bad all over. I keep a jacket with me when I go into places that are cold and I wrap up in shawls and blankets to keep my neck and shoulders warm. I am from south Texas and AC is a must but I keep mine at 78 degrees. I might have been uncomfortable at first but I am now and it feels more natural. What did people do prior to AC ???

    I have also found that I can incorporate CORE exercises throughout the day without going to the gym. Having access to the internet and GOOGLE is great for ideas.

    I also experimented with diet and found that sugar of any kind causes joint pain to flare up. Research says that when sugar was introduced into the American diet, arthritis flared up!!! No pun intended … LOL !!!

    So I quit eating foods with sugar and most processed wheat foods including breads, cereal with wheat and pasta. I started reading the labels on boxes and cans to see the sugar content. I looked for the suffix “-ose” and avoided it because it usually meant that there was some kind of sugar in the product.

    If I ate rice it was brown rice, not the quick cooking processed, bleached white kind and no corn or potatoes; chips, breads, fried, boiled or baked.

    I NEVER have joint pain when I do this. Also, I have no water retention to speak of !!!! I will suffer during holiday “feasts” because it is so hard to resist ALL the goodies but … I know that relief is within me. If I eat the stuff that ails me, I will feel bad. If I don’t, I won’t.

    I fish, poulty, beef, eggs and dairy but not milk. I look at the carb content on dairy and the lower the better. I look at the content label on EVERYTHING. It’s very healthy to know just exactly what you are eating. I also look at portions and use portion control. I eat protein and vegetables, and foods with very few to zero carbohydrates. For carbohydrates, I eat green leafy veggies and many, many other veggies that are not high on the glycemic index. I have been eating this diet for over 16 years and do not have a weight problem or pain unless I “cheat.” And I allow myself to cheat so that I won’t go crazy on a binge and eat the whole cake!!!

    I also do not drink alcohol or smoke. With little exception, both of these contain a lot of sugar.

    Initially, in 1996, I saw a gastroenterologist and was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome) and he informed me that I most likely had an allergy to something that I was eating and that I could figure it out with a couple of food lists he gave me.

    Based on the lists, I first gave up milk, wheat and sugar. These were the most highly allergic or offensive of the foods.

    I felt unbelievably better within a short amount of time. My whole body felt better !!! I didn’t realize how bad I felt until I started feeling good !!!

    I then gave up corn and potatoes because I realized that I didn’t digest corn well and potatoes made me sleepy after eating them.

    I did this with many different foods containing carbs and generally found that my body as a whole functions better without the starchy carbohydrates that turn to sugar.

    I very seldom eat processed foods. Just fresh, frozen or canned … in that order. It is easy to shop that way. Mainly on the outer edge of the grocery store.

    I have not had symptoms of IBS since I started this diet and a plus is that I have no joint pain or water retention. The symptoms return with I veer from the diet but go away when I get back on it.

    I am not a nutritionist or doctor, I just feel remarkably better when I do this and have so much compassion and empathy for those who suffer with joint pain and water retention, carpal tunnel and just general feeling bad for no apparent reason.

    I discovered this diet for myself for an entirely different reason and want to share my experience with others because it feels so good not to feel bad. I am NOT cured but those of my friends that have tried this, have had great success. I am not perfect. I love pie and cake and cookies and eat them when I allow myself to. I don’t always suffer afterwards but when I do, I know how to stop the pain.

  57. Had several months of trigger thumb; tried icing, ibuprofen, etc., with no improvement. Finally saw a hand surgeon who gave me a cortisone shot, and it’s been fine ever since. Of course she said to “knit less,” but that’s unlikely! I knit continental, and I’m aware of a lot of tension and repetitive movement of the affected left thumb, but I think certain patterns cause different stresses on certain fingers. So changing projects can help, too.

  58. I am a former Sports Massage Therapist. The most important part of any stretch you do for your wrist, forearms or fingers is to keep your elbows straight! The tendons for at least the majority of these muscles attach above the elbow joint, so if your elbow is straight, you are getting the fullest benefit of the stretch, if your elbow is bent (even just a bit) you’re taking the benefit out of the stretch. Short duration, increased repetition stretches (at least 10 per stretch)are very effective. And if you are having problems, these should be done before and after knitting. At the end of the day, one last set of stretches followed by icing (15) min. Or better yet, ice, moist heat and then ice again! Surgeries create scar tissue!!

  59. Never, never use metal needles. There has been research done that suggests there is not enough ‘give’ in metal and this causes RSI and other damage. Use bamboo for absolute flexibility, persevere its very odd after using metal needles! Or seek out some mid range divine fancy laminated birch Symfonie by Knitpro. If money is no object try Lantern Moon’s rosewood.

    If you sit on and break wood/bamboo, use a pencil sharpener, then emery board, then bit of hand cream to reproduce a short needle, or dble pointed needle, for cabling.

  60. It is amazing to read the vast amount of suggestions that have been written in less than I week! I have rheumatoid arthrits and osteoarthritis and the RA is currently flared up. I also have a nerve impingement in my left shoulder that greatly affects how much I can do with my left arm. I am going to try some of the exercises that I read.
    In the past, I have worn my wrist splints at night and sometimes during the day. I try to keep my hands in a position with the fingers higher than my wrist which is higher than my elbow. It will decrease the swelling. I also have Voltaren gel that I rub into my hands and it really helps. (it’s a prescribed topical NSAID which has little systemic absorption). There are times when nothing works well enough so that is when I bury myself in my stash and become reacquainted with it. Then I go through my mountain of magazines and books and have an AHA moment between yarn and pattern. It’s not as satisfying as knitting but it helps me use up yarn and justify keeeping all those books and magazines.
    Is there anyway that an article on ergonomics could be included in Knits? Trying to crochet is painful within just a few minutes that I have stopped doing it.

  61. I have had tennis elbow (left) for 3-4 years. In March I went in for another cortisone shot. The Orthopedic Doctor decided there must me something else going on, and ordered a MRI. Sure enough, the MRI showed the worn down, horseshoe shape, in my elbow. Degenerative arthritis. I have been wearing the tennis elbow brace, since the beginning. I’ve had pt, along with the ibuprofen, and the exercises you posted, and the wrist splints all the time. I can only knit for about 15 minutes, before I have to quit, because of the pain. It’s very frustrating, not being able to knit. My stress reliever now causes stress.

  62. I am a yoga therapist/teacher in the athletic department for a University. I would seek out natural help before I would seek medical help. Try deep tissue massage, therapeutic yoga, trigger therapy or acupuncture. Massage, my yoga practice and trigger therapy often give me immediate relief for the overuse injury I sustain as a knit/crochet enthusiast and computer mouse clicker. The extensive nutritional advice in the comment below is quite good, too. Both sugar AND artificial sweeteners contribute to joint pain.

  63. I’ve found that, when particularly when doing intricate cable patterns, it helps to stop every 20 minutes or so and do these exercises. That extra 3 to 5 minutes of stretching allows me continue to knit with a lot less pain for a much longer time. My arthritis is such that I use a Handeze support glove and regular non-aspirin, too, but the exercises are the best medicine.

  64. I’ve had trouble with my hands for several years. I finally went to a hand surgeon who said I had basal joint problems (that’s the base of your thumb). She fitted me with braces which I wore faithfully at night and also during the day when I needed them. However, I continued to knit and crochet, because how do you NOT knit and crochet??????? It is impossible!!!!
    Anyway, after doing this for over a year, I just had 1 surgery almost 2 weeks ago and am now going crazy wanting to get back to it and not quite daring to yet. I get my stitches out on Monday so I’ll see what she says then. The surgery was not bad at all–it’s mostly the waiting that’s “painful”! I’ll need to have my other hand done also, but plan to wait a bit for that, since I NEED to get some work done first!!

  65. My daughter is a massage therapist and told me the same thing as DonnaH@17 wrote on 09-01-2012 12:11 PM about u sing rubberbands. I did it for a bit and it worked, but I kept forgetting to continue it! Can’t help me than, can it?!

  66. Even my physical therapist likes this sequence of stretches. Not too much, not too little and decently balanced so you don’t make something else hurt! Thank you for spreading the word. My carpal tunnel and tendinitis respond fairly well.

  67. My hand and arm pain stems from an old wrist injury which left me with a severed tendon to my third finger. My ability to grip is impaired and of course this is my dominate hand. Massage therapy helps when the muscle spasms are very severe, however Cubics (wood square needles) has enable me to avoid much of the development of the aches and spasms. I have also been doing the exercises with great success. I cannot recommend the Cubics Needles enough…they work for arthritic joints as well! Keep exercising and Keep Knitting!

  68. ARNICA gel! It’s pretty odorless, soaks in quickly, and Arnica helps with swelling and damage to soft tissues. Its great for bruises, sprains, and muscle aches. Slather it on every couple of hours to heal in half the normal time.

  69. I used 2 strands of chunky wool with a #20 needle and my wrists ached. So, I changed the pattern to one strand of wool and smaller needles. The problem went away. I also use tumeric and bromalein which reduces inflamation. Hope that helps.


  70. When I have hand pain I switch to a different style of knitting. I learned to knit the English way (throwing) so most often that is what I revert to but when my hands hurt, I switch to continental or Portuguese style where there is much less hand movement or at least the hand movement switches from the right hand to the left to give my right hand a rest.
    I actually use all three styles during most projects because I enjoy the speed of continental knitting on straight knitting projects, the speed of purl done the Portuguese style (because I never could get the hang of purling continental way)and my good old English style for intricate lace patterns.

    So give it a try, switch the workload to the opposite hand!

  71. I had ongoing pain at the wrist and base of my thumb for over 5 years. No relief from either my internist or a specialist. Finally went for accupuncture. It took a year of weekly treatments (that were not covered by insurance), but now I am pain free!

  72. Seems to me most of the people who have commented here are missing the most important point: that pain is the body’s way of letting us know there is something wrong. I would definitely see my (thoroughly trusted) physician with any pain, and certainly before trying any home-grown remedy. I value my hands too much to take a chance on losing their use altogether. With my doc’s blessings, I have added shark cartilage for a long-term assist with my rather serious arthritis. I’m 64 and have knit for about 54 years, and my hands feel great with my methods, although I will add the exercises from this post, and will also pass them along to my knit/crochet group as well as customers at the LYS where I work.

  73. I have been challenged by fibromyalgia intermittently. Aerobic exercise is the best treatment as well as a regular sleep pattern.

    A few years ago I began to have periodic numbness in my hands. I dropped a lot of things and had no strength on many days. Arthritic spurs in my spinal vertebrae were putting pressure on my nerves. A chiropractor treated my neck and i began a series of weight lifting exercises. Now I can reset the pressure on my neck by daily routine of exercise. At 60 I can still lay my head on my shoulder, I haven’t had problems for awhile. Staying flexible and keeping the muscles strong has eliminated the problems.

    Wearing fingerless gloves has also been helpful.

  74. I have been challenged by fibromyalgia intermittently. Aerobic exercise is the best treatment as well as a regular sleep pattern.

    A few years ago I began to have periodic numbness in my hands. I dropped a lot of things and had no strength on many days. Arthritic spurs in my spinal vertebrae were putting pressure on my nerves. A chiropractor treated my neck and i began a series of weight lifting exercises. Now I can reset the pressure on my neck by daily routine of exercise. At 60 I can still lay my head on my shoulder, I haven’t had problems for awhile. Staying flexible and keeping the muscles strong has eliminated the problems.

    Wearing fingerless gloves has also been helpful.

  75. I have been challenged by fibromyalgia intermittently. Aerobic exercise is the best treatment as well as a regular sleep pattern.

    A few years ago I began to have periodic numbness in my hands. I dropped a lot of things and had no strength on many days. Arthritic spurs in my spinal vertebrae were putting pressure on my nerves. A chiropractor treated my neck and i began a series of weight lifting exercises. Now I can reset the pressure on my neck by daily routine of exercise. At 60 I can still lay my head on my shoulder, I haven’t had problems for awhile. Staying flexible and keeping the muscles strong has eliminated the problems.

    Wearing fingerless gloves has also been helpful.