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Sarah E. White

Does Knitting Hurt?

By March 28, 2007

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A reader recently wrote to tell me she'd been having problems with her wrists because of knitting and has had to stop knitting because of it. She wondered how common the problem was, so I thought I'd ask for her.

It seems to me that repetitve strain injuries having to do with knitting (or caused by other factors and made worse by knitting) are pretty common in this day of overusing computers and other devices that require intensive use of the hands. Then again, I may just think that because I have an RSI that sometimes makes it hard for me to knit.

Let's find out in the most scientific way we've got. I'd like to know who feels enough pain when knitting that it makes you stop knitting. If you'd like to say more about how you keep pain away (remembering that no one on this site should be considered a medical expert), please leave a comment.

Poll:Do you feel pain when you knit?
View Results

Comments

March 28, 2007 at 12:30 pm
(1) Samira says:

I have found that using circular needles, even when I am knitting back and forth, helps a great deal because more of the fabric’s weight ends up on my lap and less on my writsts. It is also important to remember to stop and rest your hands and wrists periodically, as with any repeated activity. Finally, I find that the more tightly I knit the worse my hands feel, so I try to balance needle size and tension to get gauge without having to strain my hands.

March 28, 2007 at 12:58 pm
(2) E.S. says:

I, too, have to stop knitting because of pain. But my doctor said that knitting is very good for arthritic hands. I do find that knitting first thing in the morning helps to loosen my fingers up. I am not that old, 46, but have arthritis everywhere, so I will listen to my doctor and continue the fun and relaxing hobby of knitting.

March 28, 2007 at 1:12 pm
(3) K says:

I only experience a strain in my thumb/finger if I knot for a prolonged time, quickly. If I make myself slow down, or if I am doing something like lace, where I have to slow down, then I don’t have a problem.

March 28, 2007 at 1:16 pm
(4) k says:

That would be if I knit, not knot. Heh.

March 28, 2007 at 1:30 pm
(5) Ceis says:

I too have arthritis everywhere, but I find that knitting helps after I once get loosened up. If I don’t have projects for the family, I keep knitting by making various style hats and caps for Cancer patients. Keep on knitting!!

March 28, 2007 at 2:44 pm
(6) Peggy says:

When I experience pain in my wrists while knitting, I wear a therapeutic glove (bought at a knitting shop) and stop frequently to stretch my wrists and hands. Mostly my pain is in the finger next to my pinky which is very swollen, apparently with arthritis, but I don’t stop knitting – just handle the yarn differently for a little while.

March 28, 2007 at 4:47 pm
(7) mwknitter says:

I find that I rarely have pain if I stick to circular needles & avoid knitting with inflexible fibers like cotton.

March 28, 2007 at 7:20 pm
(8) Morri says:

I found that I was having pain while knitting because I was using slippery yarn with slippery needles – in my case, acrylic yarn and metal needles. I kept pulling the stitches tighter and tighter to keep them from sliding, making my stitches so tight that they were hard to knit. Leading to hand problems all around. Once I switched to bamboo, no more pain!

March 28, 2007 at 8:00 pm
(9) Penny C says:

I have knit off and on for over 45 years. I had carpal tunnel surgery last year. I have arthritis in my right thumb.

I am left handed but had to teach my self to knit right handed because you hold the yarn differently.

I never knit more then a couple of rows at a time. I am currently knitting a sweater knit from the top town. Each row is longer then the previous row.

I take it slow.

March 29, 2007 at 12:21 am
(10) Lauren says:

I have been in terrible pain with my first pair of socks. It was on one long circular using the magic loop. I switched from bamboo to metal-still hurt-now I’ve gotten an additional circular into the mix-we’ll see how that turns out. My tension (uber tight on these things) is a contributing factor.

Anyhow, the lady at the LYS said to take lots of b6. Something about it growing back the hurt stuff. I’ve been taking a mega-b blend and the pain is gone. I’ve not had time to finish the socks, so it could be that I’m just not creating more pain. Go figure.

March 29, 2007 at 1:30 am
(11) cam says:

On the rare occasion I have discomfort it’s in the end of my ‘pushing’ finger when using smaller-than-ideal ndls and a non-stretchy cotton. But a sturdy band-aid solves the problem. Luckily, despite being a ‘thrower’ I’ve not experienced any other knittng-related problems.

March 29, 2007 at 1:51 am
(12) Mariann R. says:

I have Fibromyalgia (chronic pain syndrom) and my knitting helps me to control the pain. When I need to sit, I knit, and it helps me relax the knitting takes over, and my mind is relaxed from my pain. Who knew! :) I give the credit to Bamboo needles.

March 29, 2007 at 7:11 am
(13) Leslie says:

I have numbness in my left thumb, index and middle fingers if I knit too long, and pain in my left ring finger. Stopping and shaking it out seems to help, and so does a therapeutic glove. It’s not going to stop me.

My mother found that knitting helped clear up arthritis in her fingers that set in when she was in her mid-40s, and so did I.

March 29, 2007 at 8:46 am
(14) Chris says:

I’ve never experienced pain while knitting. I learned on circular needles and use them for all of my projects. I’ve broken each of my wrists over a two year period and, in both cases, knitting proved to be very therapeutic. In fact, I knitted a scarf for my physical therapist.

March 29, 2007 at 12:37 pm
(15) cc says:

I dislocated my shoulder and when I started therapy, I started back knitting. I feel it helps even when it hurts. Movement is always good. Anyway it’s not going to stop me from knitting!

March 29, 2007 at 12:46 pm
(16) mousepotato says:

I have bursitis in both shoulders and symptoms of carpal tunnel in both hands, as well as a badly healed break in one thumb from an accident a number of years ago, all of which cause me pain when I knit too much or too long. I have learned to shake my hands out periodically and take regular breaks. I don’t sit with my elbows out higher than normal or propped up. I have found that circs and non-aluminum circs (can’t even begin to tell you why aluminum needles make my hands hurt) are easier on the shoulders because the weight is in my lap. I switch projects with radically different sized needles regularly and when the hands really hurt I wear Hand-Eze gloves when I work and a wrist brace to bed at night. But it never stops me from knitting.

March 29, 2007 at 1:27 pm
(17) Lisa says:

I have fibromyalgia and am on Social Security Disability at 43. I love to knit, but often am in pain. I see some mention using the gloves sold in the knit stores. I’ve continued to get worse and am curious if the gloves are helpful (recommended brand please?). Do any of you have my situation and have found a good way to help yourself? I do have a brace for one of my wrists for some carpel syndrome symptoms, but can’t wear them while knitting. Please help, my Husband is going to kill me if all that yarn doesn’t turn into something soon ;) .

March 29, 2007 at 7:45 pm
(18) karrol says:

try to keep your hands very relaxed and use a light touch as you work.When your hands start to hurt ,stop,wait and it will pass.
I found petting my cats helps when I am really hurting.The Hand eze @joanns.com is great ,just wear it wrong side out so the seam wont hurt the hand, Hope this helps

March 30, 2007 at 2:43 pm
(19) AdySin says:

I have quite a bit of finger pain, but keep on knitting; I’ve also found the short circular needles cause pain; not enough length for a comfortable grip. My fingers also go numb; for this I am considering wearing wrist splints to keep my wrists straight. If my elbows are very bent, I try to straighten them to relieve the numbness.

March 31, 2007 at 1:01 am
(20) susan says:

I have problems at times with my right wrist, but it’s worse if I have also spend time on the computer.
Knitting is my relaxation relief though and would never give it up.For me the splint at night and also the creme”Arnica gel” helps with the muscle pain.

April 1, 2007 at 5:36 pm
(21) chris says:

I have underactive thyroid prob and pain in right hand associated with that. Had carpal tunnel op last year so pain again with that. So knitting is a luxury nowadays – a little knitting and figure of eight exercise in between rows helps.
Hope this helps other readers.

April 8, 2007 at 12:20 pm
(22) lisa says:

Two sessions of acupuncture and no more pain when I knit! I swear by it!

May 20, 2007 at 7:07 pm
(23) Stephanie says:

Try switching to continential style knitting. I keep the left needle tucked up under my arm which reduces the amount of stress on my wrists. I find circular and dpn needing very hard on my wrists and hands.

May 30, 2007 at 11:01 pm
(24) Edith says:

Has anyone heard of French knitting to lessen pain in left thumb? I tried it and found it a tight and new
stitch. Has anyone had success in using this method to curb pain? Shall I keep practicing this?

October 25, 2007 at 12:11 pm
(25) Jenny says:

After I knit for a little while, I begin to feel pain in the palm of my hand, forearm and shoulder. I think its related to poor posture and my scoliosis.
A physical therapist gave me some excersises to strengthen my core muscles which helped a lot (at least now I can knit a little bit!), but I’m still looking for solutions.

September 2, 2008 at 2:13 pm
(26) Robyn says:

On knitting forums, I’ve seen these gloves recommended the most: http://www.beltoutlet.com/thglbyis.html (Isotoner)

I have never had pain until very recently, when I took on the huge project of painting my entire house. It seems the painting is hard on my wrists and hands, and then knitting daily is making it worse. I am only 34, with no arthritis, and I wake up in the night and can barely move my hands, they are so stiff.

I can’t wait to be done painting so I can hopefully get past this. I think I’ll try the gloves.

November 30, 2008 at 10:00 pm
(27) Virgi says:

I have been using an IMAK Smart Glove because it has a flexible splint so you can still move but get support. They also have arthritis gloves. Rite Aid carries the SmartGlove in the store, and Staples has them on line. Drugstore.com has both the SmartGlove & arthritis gloves. Hopefully IMAK will launch the glove with no ergo beads soon.

December 1, 2008 at 12:38 am
(28) Michele says:

I have joint pain in my shoulder from my job. Also I have arthritis in my left thumb that has kept me from knitting for three weeks. It felt better this week so I started back knitting. Now it really hurts. I have to learn to take my ibuprofen and glucosamine/chondroitin because that helps me. A lot. I have had carpal tunnel surgery about 11 years ago. It was such a relief. I could actually hold things in my hands without dropping them.
So I have to learn to pace myself. HA.

April 7, 2009 at 2:06 am
(29) Jane Powell says:

Gloves are great, I use for computer and knitting, sometimes adding an elastic wrist band in addition for a bit more comfort and support.

All kinds of brands, several dealers sell pairs of fingerless gloves on ebay, or Walmart, Joann’s and Michaels sells single gloves you can use on either hand in needlework dept.

Since I get soreness on my first knuckle, I prefer the gloves with some finger coverage instead of ones that end right at base of fingers. Those tend to bind a bit at base of fingers.

The knitting needle material makes a real difference for me: I find the plastic needles, especially the double points, extremely comfortable to use. The flexibility and warmth of the plastic is wonderful. Look for vintage needles at charity shops etc as they do not make plastic ones much anymore. But one current manufacturer of some excellent needles is Boyd’s Balene line. They look like ivory, and have unique curved points that are very easy on the hands. Michael’s sells these as do most knitting shops.

The metal seems to be very hard on my hands, I hate them. So inflexible they hurt after just a few minutes and are cold to the touch.

Bamboo needles are nice but the quality varies so much; I have had quite a few split and break.

October 5, 2010 at 3:49 pm
(30) quietann says:

I have arthritis in my shoulders and fingers, some sort of carpal-tunnely-thing in my wrists, diabetic neuropathy in right index and middle fingers, and a metal plate holding my left collarbone together. That’s a lot! The pain is rarely bad, but my right hand and arm will get, hm, tingly or twitchy if over-used.

I knit just a little at a time and quit if my right index finger gets tingly. I am also trying craft gloves with open fingers and a wrist brace. (I wear a full wrist brace at night.) Circular needles are definitely better, and I don’t knit on tiny needles, tend to do looser stuff like simple lace patterns and “novelty yarn” projects on huge needles, and usually use bamboo rather than metal needles.

December 7, 2011 at 11:51 pm
(31) Betty Ladner says:

I love to crochet, taught myself when I was expecting my 3rd. baby.
I now knook, or cro-hook, I do the tunisian stitch, draw, and knit.
I am 45, I’ve had an American flag crochet afghan in the St. Augustine record, titled Crochet can you See, LOL, I liked that.
I have TMJ and arthritis in my joints, the hobbies I have help my hands and wrists if I change up the stitches, but as of lately, my frontal shoulder and arm joints are hurting bad enough for me to stop.
I’m a single mom of 7…yes I did say seven beautiful daughters.
This year the only gifts the girls will have are gifts I knit, or crochet, the way the pain is lingering, it’s going to be a horrible Christmas for them, and I worse one for me because I’ll feel bad for all 7.
I am on mobic, which helps at bedtime, I am starting Lyrica in a few days, as soon as the P.A.P. gets started, which is a program that gets my meds for me.
I’ve had an aneurysm, collapsed lung, and shattered kidney, 4 years ago while I was 34 weeks pregnant with my 7th. child, now I have 1 kidney, then I had a blood clot, and before that, I had a tubal pregnancy, aka an ectopic pregnancy, which led to the loss of my right ovary and fallopian tube, now I have to be careful with what I eat and drink, and the meds I take, because some drugs can destroy a kidney, so finding pain medication for my pain isn’t easy.
So….to get back on track, my pain is bad enough to stop me in my tracks…..or in this case, in my stitch.

December 13, 2011 at 9:08 am
(32) Tina says:

I’m a new knitter and I was trying to finish a scarf for Christmas. I started out using plastic needles, but they snapped in two so I switched to metal needles. Then the problems started — I’m not sure what the exact problem is, but it’s not carpel tunnel I think because there is no numbness or tingling, just pain, weakness, and discomfort. I’m taking a break from knitting but it hasn’t gotten better, so I guess the next step would be a doctors visit.

May 30, 2012 at 3:45 pm
(33) Michele says:

I’m a new knitter, and knitting sometimes causes my hands to cramp. It’s not really painful, so much as it just feels difficult to move my hands to make the stitches. If it gets bad enough, I put down my knitting and do something else, something that involves not moving my hands/wrists/fingers or moving them in a way that employs different motions.

Sometimes if I’ve been working on a lot of projects, after I’ve finished the last one, I take a day off from knitting to rest my hands.

August 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm
(34) Granma Jackie says:

I have been knitting since I was a young teen, and have learned a lot over the years.

I have fibromyalgia, arthritis in my hands, (and other places not involved with knitting), and here are my tips.

Many knitters need to re-evaluate the way they knit. I learned, after 20 years of “wrapping and dropping” the right hand needle, that this was not the healthiest way to knit. I learned to “pick” with my left hand, then transferred what I had learned to my right hand.

Spending a few summer months teaching myself to knit “continental”, and then knit “english” without dropping the right hand needle to wrap the yarn, I eventually became much more efficient, could knit more quickly (with better tension), and now have way less stress on my bad thumbs and stiff fingers.

Just a suggestion to those of you having pain with knitting – evaluate the way you are knitting, and see if you can make some changes. It will be as slow in the beginning as it was when you first started to knit, but you will have a much shorter retraining curve, because you already know how the stitches are supposed to look.

Just go very slowly at first, trying for minimal movement. Speed will come, once you retrain the brain to to make more efficient, less stressful movements.

You really can knit “English” without dropping the needle. Give it a try.

September 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm
(35) Lydia says:

Please try Andrea Wong’s Portuguese knitting method! Yarn goes around your neck, you basically only move your left thumb for both purl and knit! I found it by Googling ergonomic knitting; it is fast, too!

October 26, 2012 at 1:40 am
(36) Ann says:

I’m only 22, and have no bone issues. I love to knit but after 30 minutes or so my knuckles get very stiff and painful. I try to push through but sometimes it gets unbearable, has anyone else had that problem?

November 24, 2012 at 10:02 am
(37) Jennifer says:

Knitting can get painful for me but not as bad as crocheting and other crafts. I get arthritis pain in the thumb joint, tendon pain in the wrist, and often even when those don’t happen, my finger tips will all go numb.
I have found that wearing thick, tight wrist bands (sports sweat band style) while crafting helps keep the pain at a much more tolerable level without interfering with movement like braces do. I stack two of them so they squeeze from halfway up my hand to well below my wrist (the area that would be covered by fingerless hand earners basically). Hope that helps some of you also!

April 3, 2013 at 11:17 am
(38) Chemogirl says:

I have both neuropathy and lymphedema due to a mastectomy and chemo. I have been knitting for over 50 years (I am also left handed). I was taught to knit to hold the needles “knife style” (overhand). when I wrap the yarn, I sort of loop it over the needle (I hold the yarn on my right hand). I also, found that the circular needles help with the weight factor. The only problem there is when you are knitting lace, you have to be a little more careful wuith the yarn overs and the nubbs.

December 14, 2013 at 10:27 am
(39) Lita says:

It does not hurt when I am knitting, usually it hurts when I wake up the following morning…hand/fingers are stiff, wrist and joints hurt…it becomes so hard and difficult to star the day…can’t brush teeth, comb hair, button up clothes, or even use the toilet…put my hands under running, very warm water for a few minutes, start knitting again and hands begin to feel much better and work well.

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