Updated: Dec 5, 2022
I am one of those unlucky knitters that has pain after knitting. My elbows hurt, my forearms hurt, my triceps hurt, my shoulders hurt, my neck hurts, it's just a mess. I have worked with physical therapists, sports massage therapists, chiropractic, and orthopedic doctors. I've heard many reasons for why I have pain and many remedies, but basically it boils down to two things:
1) poor posture while I knit (slouched on a sofa, watching Netflix, with my head tilted down) and
2) muscle overuse
I'm not a doctor... I am only sharing with you what has worked for me and passing along advice that may help you. Anytime you have pain, you should see a doctor since there can be many issues causing pain.
First, the posture... I can't sit up straight and knit - I like to be comfortable. And I need to look down when I knit, so I can't change that.
Some things that help with posture:
* I put pillows under my elbows to help support my forearms
* I knit with circular needles to shift the weight of my projects to my lap
Second, the muscle overuse... Some things that help:
* I take mini 1-2 minute breaks while knitting to stretch. I move around, shake out my upper body, and stretch, stretch, stretch my fingers, arms, and shoulders. This helps greatly! If you'd like to see a quick video on these stretches, you can see it on YouTube
* Ice also helps but I don't really like that option. If the pain is great, ice will reduce inflammation and you'll get almost instant relief.
* Exercising the arms helps to strengthen the muscles which allows them to perform better (to me this means I can knit for longer stretches). 100 jumping jacks a day (broken into segments at first) is a good way to stretch and strengthen the arms from the shoulder through the fingertips.
* Using a Tens unit blocks the pain and stimulates blood flow to the arms, shoulders, elbow, or wherever you place the pads. When you overuse or damage your muscles, it can be hard for blood flow to reach the injured spot which delays healing. By increasing circulation, the muscles can heal faster.
* Oddly enough, when I consume less sugar, I have less pain in my arms and shoulders when knitting. It ties into the "sugar = inflammation = pain" so when I greatly reduce or almost eliminate sugar, I do feel better (this one is just hard for me to stick with.)
* Another remedy for muscle overuse is to have a sports massage regularly. Not a relaxing massage, but one where the therapist uses Active Release Therapy to break up scar tissue which provides instant relief. If you knit daily, and have pain regularly, this is the one thing that really lets you continue knitting without taking days or weeks off of knitting.
* I use an all-natural product called Knitters Relief Balm! I’m one of those people who reads ingredient labels. I have sensitive skin and prefer natural products. This is chemical-free and made with arnica, magnesium, and a blend of healing essential oils like peppermint, rosemary, camphor, ginger, wintergreen and more. It has an immediate effect for reducing inflammation which causes pain. It increases circulation and relieves pain wherever you put it. And it's made in Austin, Texas and developed by a knitter (of course) and naturalist.
I love that it comes in a push-up tube, so I can rub it on while I'm knitting without getting any on my fingers. It doesn't stain your clothes. It smells nice. It's not messy. And the smaller 1 oz size fits nicely in my knitting bag. Plus, I'm not taking Advil/Motrin/Aleve/Tylenol for relief.
Before I started offering this on my website, I was using it. When my package arrived in the mail, I rubbed some on the usual place before I started knitting that night. Then I rubbed in a little extra before bedtime and for the first time in a long time, I slept through the night without waking up from pain.
To read more about Knitter's Relief Balm, see the complete list of ingredients, or to purchase some balm for yourself, please click here. To view quick, easy stretching exercises that you can do while knitting, view the short video here. These are mini break stretches designed to be done in less than a minute, so you can put down your knitting, stretch and hold, then resume knitting without stopping for the evening.
Try a few of these techniques and see which one helps you. Some are easy, some require appointments and cost money. In the end, I hope you find one of these tips helpful. I am able to knit daily for long periods now without pain, and for that I am grateful to all of the advice that I've received over the years and for all of the trial-and-error remedies. I hope you find relief as well.
[This article contains links to Knitter's Relief Balm who pays me a small commission if you make a purchase through these links. You can read the full affiliate disclosure here.]