Tuesday, December 11, 2012

gift knitting and repetitive strain relief

As we furiously head for this familiar deadline, we can get hurt! Don’t we all know that knitting can hurt???

I've been hurt knitting, I’ve been hurt playing the drums, I've been hurt opening a window—all of which made me unable to knit. (It's only when I cannot knit that I consider myself truly hurt. When I broke a leg--and had every excuse to just sit and knit—I wasn't hurtin' much.)

Here's what I have learned over a 50+ year of injuries.

  • Avoid repetitive strain injuries by not doing a fine-motor activity for more than 20 minutes.
  • Because 20 minutes can pass so very quickly (while knitting, while on the computer, probably not both at the same time but some of us are very talented!), set an egg timer for 20 minutes and across the room. When it rings, stop what you are doing!!! (Maybe an egg timer would be a good gift for a knitter?)
  • Take a one-minute break. During that break, move and stretch.
  • If you do have a repetitive strain injury, get help as soon as possible.
The best help I've received is ART (active release techniques) therapy. I regret that I can't say how I originally heard about ART, but I can say that it has saved me and others. You can go online to read about it and find a provider. (When I started, I think it was harder to find: seems to have become the preferred method for chiropractors now?) But here's what my experience has been.

I got tendonitis from playing the drums. This is normally a troublesome and chronic injury, but ART had me back on track within 10 days. However, what follows is a much better story and recommendation for ART.

Some time later I injured a rotator cuff opening a window.  I couldn't use my right arm to even turn on the radio in my car. My therapist said You are left-handed for a week. If I have to put your right arm into a sling, I will. (He probably thought I would stop knitting if he threatened me like that. Little did he know that I could knit in a sling!) And then he worked on me.

Typical ART involves the therapist doing deep tissue massage while twisting your body through that area. (You can read on the ART website for a better explanation of what's being done.) It can hurt a little during the process, but you feel immediate relief when it stops!

I did what I was told (not using my right arm and going for regular therapy with him) and, sure enough, within a week I was perfectly recovered. (Please remember that mine was not the chronic injury. I was incapacitated, to be sure, but the injury was probably not severe and certainly the same as someone who has struggled with this injury over time--like a baseball player.)

Many months later I was at a STITCHES event, at lunch with my friend Peggy, and I asked how she was doing. She told me she had been suffering with a rotater cuff injury. Imagine my shock when she said It was 6 weeks ago, and I've been lifting weights like my therpist says, but it's not working.

So I repeated my experience. She said she would look up ART, and she did. A year later she told me that even though it was an hour-and-a-half drive (she does live in the middle of nowhere), she was so grateful she had done so. It had cured her shoulder and helped her with other nagging injuries, and she couldn't recommend it more.

I told this story at a class in Michigan, and a woman—an athlete, in fact—said that ART had saved her from a chronic knee problem. My friend Susanna had the same knee problem, went to an ART therapist after hearing this, and we are now running 10K’s together!

We all know what can happen to us at this time of year. While you knit those gifts for everyone else, consider giving yourself the gift of a healing therapy!


  1. Thank you for sharing this! I definitely learned recently I've been sitting and knitting too long w/out getting up.

  2. ART helped heal a recurring hip injury that I had struggled with for about 10 years (happened at 34 years old originally). Within a few months of ART, the pain was gone. I injure it again sometimes, but it is so much more resilient than before! There came a point where I thought I would walk with a cane for the rest of my life, but now I don't limp anymore, and I have no pain at all most of the time. I too can only recommend it, even for old recurring injuries.

  3. Yup! This is the kind of thing that people say about ART! It sometimes feels quite miraculous. And I've heard from others who used it to deal with injuries they assumed they had to suffer for the rest of their days. Thanks for writing!