Pain when Knitting? Learn how to avoid it

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Pain when knitting? 7 ways to avoid pain as a knitter

Hey Fellow Knitter, do you get pains when knitting? You just want to knit, but it hurts in your hands, wrists, and shoulders?

I suffer from this too. I get pains in my hands and shoulders when knitting, and it ain’t pleasant. At all.

Some years ago I changed my knitting needles from straight to circular knitting needles, and this one, simple thing has helped me a lot! This is what had the most impact of all the things I have tested. More about the why’s and the how’s further down!

I still get pains if I knit too much. You know those times when you fall in love with your project and just wanna knit, knit, knit… but it’s so much better now than it was before!

The time I have put into researching how to avoid pain when knitting is huge. To spare you to do the same I will share the best alternatives I found with you down below.

Knitting has some really amazing benefits for your bodies and minds! We just need to avoid getting hurt in the process and I really hope that you can have good use of these tips!

Don't Be Such a Square 💛 Pain when Knitting? I have listed my seven best tips on how to avoid getting pains from knitting. #knitting #pain #knittingtips
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Breaks, stretching, and movement

This advice is crucial. And sooo hard to actually do.

I mean Netflix just keeps delivering, my sofa is so comfy, and the knitting so relaxing and enjoyable! But, I also know that if I don’t do it, there will not be any more knitting fun time in a while.

Our bodies need to get up moving around and it’s never good to sit for a long period of time. And we all know that. But sometimes we just forget about it.

My best tips to help solve the ”glue under the butt”-problem 🙂

  • Set a timer, and get up when the alarm goes off. I usually don’t manage to make this work. If I don’t put the alarm in another room… When you’re standing, get moving!
    • Do a quick household chore like getting the dishes out of the dishwasher or starting a load of laundry. It’s a win-win! You get to move around and you get things done.
    • Stretch your hands, wrists, shoulders, back, and neck to loosen tensions and get the blood flowing again.
      This YouTube-video from Love Crafts shows hand and finger stretching for knitters. There’s also some massage! I haven’t followed the exact steps in the video, but I do a lot of these exercises and I think it helps!
    • Shake and flex your hands to loosen them up a bit.
    • Squeeze and release a small rubber ball a few times. This is a different type of motion than knitting and may help your hands and fingers to relax and keep mobility, and helping you avoid pain when knitting.
  • If you’re not working out regularly you should definitely try to do some light weight-training and some walking or swimming. Personally, I prefer swimming, because it strengthens my shoulders and neck and releases tension at the same time!

Think of how you sit when you knit!

It’s always important to sit comfortably, and knitting is no exception.

This is some of the tips I have collected while researching how to avoid pain when knitting. However, I’m no expert at the human body, just a knitter who want to share some tips that may help others. Use them with common sense and don’t do anything that doesn’t feel good.

  • Keep your back straight and your shoulders down
  • Have your feet steadily at the floor, do not cross your legs
  • Choose a chair with support for your elbows
  • Make sure you have free movement of your arms
  • Are you having problems with pain in your wrist when knitting, maybe a brace can help?

Watch a video!

Recently I stumbled upon this YouYube-video from Liat Gat at Knit Freedom. The video is a few years old, but the information is still valid. In the video, Liat and Esther Gokhale go through a couple of ways to sit when knitting as well as some stretching and posture tips. This is really good information! Be sure to watch it!

I have followed the instructions in the video and I think they work really well. It feels like I’m not put as much strain on my back when sitting as shown in the video, but I haven’t been doing this long enough to be able to say I know it works.

Liat also shares a great tip for getting up: Have a little bag over your arm with your yarn in. You won’t have to lay the knitting down to get up and move around! You can just bring it with you to make a cup of tea.

But what is it that says that we have to sit when we knit? Maybe we can knit standing up or even walking? Historically, women who knit for their living was knitting while doing other chores like walking or watching livestock.

Read a book

This book goes deep into healthy knitting, how it affects our bodies and how we can knit without getting hurt: Knitting Comfortably: The Ergonomics of Handknitting by Carson Demers.

I think this book will teach you a lot if you have the chance to read it!

Unfortunately, Knitting Comfortably: The Ergonomics of Handknitting has sold out. But, when I wrote this post there was a couple of used books available at Amazon, click the link to see if you can get your hands on one!

Pain when knitting eases with warmth

Warmth makes wonders for our bodies!

  • Keep warm: Always keep warm when you’re knitting. Choose a warm room to sit in, I love to knit on the sofa in front of the fireplace!
  • Be careful with draughts: Fresh air is good, but not when it chills your neck and back. Use a shawl, I bet you have knitted a couple, or move to a warmer place.
  • Sauna baths: Some time in the sauna make wonders for tension, stiffness, and pain. It’s wonderful! You literally feel like a new person afterward. Warm, soft, clean and happy! If you haven’t tried it, please do, you won’t regret it.
  • Heating pads or rice bags: If you can’t go to the sauna try heating pads or rice bags to soften your shoulder, neck, and back muscles. Heat the pad/rice bag up, be careful so you don’t burn yourself, and place them on the hurting spot. The heat will help relieve tension in your body, and it such a cheap and easy way to pain relief.
  • Bring the wool out! I bet you have warm and cozy shawls, cowls, cardigans and fingerless gloves in your drawers. Use them! Being cold makes the muscles tense, so keeping warm is an excellent way to avoid unnecessary pain when knitting.
Don't Be Such a Square 💛 Do you have Pain when Knitting? Learn my seven best tips on how to avoid getting pains from knitting. #knitting #pain #knittingtips
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Think of how you hold your needles

If you get pains from knitting it can help to change the way you hold and move your needles.

For me, it helped to change my needles from straight to circulars. This is partly because I’m holding my circulars in a more relaxed way.

Maybe you can learn a completely new way of knitting? Lever knitting and flicking are said to be easier on our hands and wrists. Check them out to see if this is something that can work for you!

If you are a thrower switching to the continental knitting method can help, as it can be easier on your hands.

The way you hold your yarn also have an impact, try some different ways and see if you find a way that serves you better.

Creams and rubs

There are a lot of creams, lotions, and rubs on the market that can help with easing pains and loosen up tensed muscles.

I don’t recommend to use a pain reliever to be able to knit, at least not at first hand. Then I think exercise, sitting well, taking breaks and try different needles and grips are more suitable choices.

But, for those times when you have been caught up in your knitting and the pain and stiffness come afterward, I think a pain-relieving cream or rub is an excellent choice!

My favorite is the neck and shoulder rub from Tiger Balm. It makes my muscles feel soft and helps relieve pain and tension. All you have to do is massage the cream onto the area and give it a couple of minutes to make it’s magic!

Always be sure to read the information available for the product you’re considering. Some may cause allergic reactions or may not be compatible with certain medications. Consult your doctor if you are unsure in any way.

Changing your knitting needles

Well, as you’ll know by now, I love my circulars. ”But what the heck is so good about those circulars?!?”, you wonder. That’s what I’m about to tell you.

A graphic showing a pair of HiyaHiya interchangeable knitting needles  and the text: These needles helped me reduce my knitting pains!
The Knitting Needle on the graphic is a pair of my interchangeable knitting needles from Hiyahiya. These Needles have truly changed my knitting experience to the better!

Circular needles helped me reduce pain when knitting

It’s amazing what a difference your knitting needles can make. When I did switch from my straight needles to circulars I felt instant relief.

  • The circular needles make everything easier for me. There’s no extra weight on the needles that I need to move around for every stitch. Instead, the weight rests on my lap where it can’t hurt anyone!
  • There is plenty of room for all my stitches and I don’t have to squeeze them together when knitting bigger projects. As a result of that, the knitting runs smoother.
  • When knitting a small project back and forth I can use which cable I like. For knitting small projects in the round a tend to choose the magic loop method rather than a shorter cable. I want more space to move my needle tips than a short cable (or double pointed needles) gives. Otherwise, I tend to hold the needles too tight!
  • I also feel like the shorter tips of the circulars fits better in my hands, and allows me to have a loser grip without lack of control.

Fewer tools to keep organized

Another benefit of using the interchangeable set of knitting needles is that it just that. A set.

You buy one set with the needle sizes you prefer. And you get it all neatly organized in a pretty and practical case. The tips you need and the cables to go with them.

You will never buy needles again

You will never have to buy another pair of knitting needles because you can do everything with this set. Small projects, large projects, knit in the round, knit flat.

If you’re knitting a shawl and the stitches are getting crammed, connect another cable to make a longer one.

If your knitting a top-down sweater just place your arm stitches on spare cables and keep knitting on the body. When the body is finished, just add your tips to one of the arm cables and continue.

You can do anything with this kind of needles. And they are easy to use, lightweight, and have flexible cables and smooth joints that won’t snag your yarn or unscrew while you’re knitting.

More to read if you’re curious about Circulars and Interchangeable Knitting Needles

Reading Tips:
––> This article goes through circular knitting needles for beginners.
––> Here is the first tutorial in a series of three on how to knit with circular needles.
––> This is the set from HiyaHiya that I’m using, this set has totally transformed my knitting! I have less pain when knitting, which means more knitting! I love that it’s an all in one solution rather than having a bunch of different needles laying around. This set is amazing!
––> Click here to read my guide on Interchangeable Knitting Needles. You won’t regret it!

The conclusion:

Every knitter is different. We live on different continents, use different techniques and we have different habits. But, we are also very much alike!

We love our yarn and needles, we knit to relax and for fun, and our bodies all need to be taken care of. So please, Fellow Knitters, take care of yourself so we can keep on knitting for a long time ahead!

A quick recap of the tips in this post:

  • Remember to take regular breaks, stretch your muscles and get moving between knitting sessions to keep your body happy!
  • Think of how you sit! How we sit affects how the use of our muscles and can be the difference between pain or no pain.
    Watch the YouYube-video from Liat Gat at Knit Freedom to learn some good sitting habits for knitters!
  • Try to get your hands on the book Carson Demers Knitting Comfortably: The Ergonomics of Handknitting
  • Keep warm! Avoid draughts, put on a shawl and fingerless mittens if your feeling cold.
  • Change the way you hold your knitting needles, to avoid unnecessary stress and tension.
  • Creams and rubs, there are a lot of different products on the market that can ease pain and help your muscles loosen up. My favorite is the neck and shoulder rub from Tiger Balm.
  • Splurge your self with a set of interchangeable knitting needles! This is the set that has made a difference to me!

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