How to prevent pain when crocheting

We've all done it, got too involved in a crochet project, sat for too long trying to get it finished up and ended up with pain in our fingers or wrists. (As designers we do this a lot!) 

Pain from crochet tends to manifest itself in pain in the fingers of either hand, in the wrist, elbow and shoulder of the dominant (hook holding) hand and in the neck. Left unchecked this mild pain can turn into a repetitive strain injury (RSI), a serious condition cured only by resting completely or medical interventions.

We'd all like to be able to do more crochet without experiencing pain. These simple techniques and points to consider should help prevent pain occurring in the first place.

POSTURE

The majority of neck and shoulder pain particularly is caused by poor posture when we crochet. Ensure that you are sat comfortably. Your neck should not be hunched over as you look at your work. Is your back comfortable?

If you need glasses, are you using the right pair to be able to see the work while you are sat comfortably? If you are having to hold the crochet uncomfortably far away or too close to see it, it might be worth a trip to the opticians to get a pair that allow you to both see and work comfortably.

Are your elbows and wrists held comfortably as you work? Propping them up on a pillow or arm rests as you work may help this.

TECHNIQUE

RSI is caused by repetitive movement so it stands to reason that minimising movement while you crochet will help minimise the risk. Be mindful of your technique as you crochet. Are there any movements that can be made smaller and more efficient? Can you twist less as you pull the yarn through? Do you need such an expansive movement to yarn over?

Of course some of the pain can be caused by squeezing. Can you change your yarn hold so you don't need to grip it so hard? Are you having to grip hard to hold your hook? (see also TOOLS & MATERIALS)

STRETCH

As you crochet take regular breaks (every twenty minutes at least) When you take a break look up from your work and carry out simple stretching exercise on your neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands:

  • Roll your neck backwards, forwards, to the sides gently.  
  • Shrug shoulders up and down and roll shoulders forwards and backwards.
  • With your arms semi extended, shake your hands.
  • Holding your arm just above your elbow reach over your opposite shoulder. 
  • Pull your fingers gently back so your wrists flex.
  • Clench into a fist then stretch your fingers as far as they will go.

Before you start to crochet again, recheck your posture.

TOOLS & MATERIALS

Finding the right hook FOR YOU is absolutely pivotal to avoiding pain. Many people find hooks that have a soft grip useful as you do not have to squeeze as hard to be able to grip and manipulate the hook. Other people find that an ergonomic handle doesn't suit their hold but a straight hook made of bamboo is good as it warms to the touch. For more information about

Some yarns are more likely to cause pain, especially wrist, elbow and shoulder pain. Unyielding, unstretching fibres such as linen and cotton are more likely to cause pain as it is harder to push the hook through them than a bouncy, soft wool for instance. 

There are specialist gloves and supports that you can buy that may be helpful to help you support painful joints. 

VARIETY

Nothing is more likely to cause repetitive strain than doing the same thing over and over again. Try and mix up your projects so that you are doing different things. 

Vary the hook size you are using (particularly if you are not using an ergonomic hook) so the pinch you have to make is changing in size. 

Vary the type of yarn you use. Both fibre (as discussed in TOOLS & MATERIALS) and yarn weight. Some people find chunky yarns harder on their hands and some find lace weight impossible. 

Work at different gauges even within the same yarn weight, your hands grip and move differently when they work at the solid tension of a sock than they do a drapey shawl.

Thinking carefully about all these points as you pick your next project: Avoid what is painful and mix it up between the rest. 

STRENGTHEN

Looking after your body in general can really help to alleviate pain when crocheting. Ensuring all the supporting and opposing muscles are strong and healthy makes a big difference. Light weight bearing exercise for the arm muscles is really useful. It was transformative for Joanne's elbow and shoulder pain. (As with all types of exercise, seek a qualified coach and if you have any medical issues seek a doctor's permission before starting any new exercise regime)

IN SUMMARY

Crochet itself is quite a meditative and soothing practice. Being mindful of our bodies and looking after them as we crochet is an important part of that practice. 

Why not pin or print this image to remind you as you work

RSI is a serious condition and if you have any tingling, aching, stiffness or inability to move the fingers or the wrist you should stop crocheting immediately and rest. If resting does not completely cure the symptoms you should seek medical advice. Continuing to crochet through the pain can make the problem worse.


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