For some time, I have suffered with numbness in my hands and arms. At first I thought it was carpal tunnel brought on from excessive knitting, but I later discovered (after lots of trips to doctors and specialists) that it is due to thoracic outlet syndrome since I was born with extra ribs in my neck. About 1 in 200 people are born with an extra rib called a cervical rib and about 1 in 10 people who have a cervical rib develop thoracic outlet syndrome.
This can be extremely frustrating when I have a lot of knitting to do, so I decided to look into exercising and stretching before I begin long periods of wielding the needles.
However, you don’t need to have thoracic outlet syndrome to look after your hands. Sitting in one position while concentrating on your knitting / crocheting for any period of time can make your shoulders and neck ache. Plus, holding the needles and making small movements with your hands can make your fingers and wrists cramp up so it’s important to remember not to strain or overwork them.
Five ways to relax your hands and wrists
- Stretch your fingers as widely as you can and hold them there for 10 seconds. Then ball your hands into fists and hold them that way for another 10 seconds
- Place your palms together in a prayer position and keeping them that way, rotate your wrists away from you. Point your fingers downwards until you feel a slight stretch. Hold them this way for 5 to 8 seconds without tensing or lifting your shoulders up.
- Bend your elbows and push them together, then interlock your fingers. Rotate your hands and wrists ten times in a clockwise direction, then ten times in the other direction. (This feels awkward at first, but it works.)
- Extend your arms straight out in front of you and bend your wrists back, bringing your fingers straight up. Hold this for 10 seconds. Then bend your wrists down, pointing your fingers to the floor. Hold this for another 10 seconds.
- Again, extend your arms in front of you and slowly rotate your wrists so the backs of your hands are touching. Hold this position for 10 seconds feeling the stretch.
At the end of your stretches let your arms hang loosely at your sides, then shake your hands and wiggle your fingers.
Five ways to remove stress from your shoulders and arms
If you start feeling tightness in your shoulders or arms, take a few minutes to do these exercises:
- Bring both shoulders up to your ear. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, then relax them down to their natural position.
- Interlace your fingers and stretch your arms out in front of you with your palms facing away from your body. Hold this for 10 seconds.
- Keep your fingers interlaced and your palms facing out. This time stretch your arms over your head. Stretch up, up, and up until you can feel the stretch as far down as your upper rib cage. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and breathe deeply.
- Still with your fingers interlaced, cup the back of your head. Bring your elbows back and pull your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds, and then relax.
- Place your right hand on your left shoulder, then use your left hand to grab your right arm just above the elbow. Look over your right shoulder and gently pull your right arm to the left until you feel your muscle stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Change sides and stretch the other shoulder and arm.
Doing these exercises regularly will help ease the pressure our craft puts on our bodys. It is meant to be relaxing, but if we don’t look after our fingers and muscles, it will soon be far from it.
One last tip: Sometimes, knitting with straight needles for long stretches of time can make wrists sore, esp with large, heavy projects. Try swapping to circular needles instead. The slight difference in wrist position and weight distribution when using circulars can make a big difference, particularly if you have carpal tunnel or a similar condition.