Health Watch for Knitting Gladiators

Health Watch for Knitting Gladiators

The new Twist Collective is out, and it's beautiful as usual. Wonderful models, designs, photography.

And, in the Ask the Problem Ladies section, there is a piece about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I wanted to blog on the topic of hand-health, because it's been on my mind a lot this year.

(Please see the usual disclaimer below). There is a very important bundle of nerves that goes from the shoulder, to the elbow, through the wrist, and into the hand. The hand and wrist are an engineering marvel; a jigsaw puzzle of bones, connected by tissue, tendons, muscle, and able to do, thanks to that bundle of nerves and your brain, just about anything you can teach them.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome happens when one of the big nerves in that bundle, the median nerve, get's entrapped at the carpal tunnel, the cluster of bones and stuff in your wrist (you can tell I'm an expert because of the word "stuff"). That marvel of engineering is also a very tight fit.

Any inflammation or swelling or malfunction can have a domino effect and put pressure on the nerve, causing pain, numbness and tingling. You can get temporary Carpal Tunnel when you're pregnant (I did) just because everything tends to be a little swollen.

The Problem Ladies article is right; the best advice about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is don't get it. Don't wait until you have it and then try to fix it. Prevention is the key. I've said it before: you only get one pair of hands.

BUT, here's the thing: Carpal Tunnel is only one kind of problem you can get in your wrists and hands. You can injure almost any part of your body by putting too much stress on it or by using it too much (okay, there's a dirty joke in there, but I can't quite think of it).

Which leads me, again, to Repetitive Stress Injury. I've had that in my hands and wrists since Christmas. Of 2011. Yes, it's almost Christmas. Of 2012. I went to the doctor, thinking the worst (Carpal Tunnel), and found out it was repetitive stress. Which sounds mild and solvable. It's actually painful and pernicious. (Isn't pernicious an excellent word?)

Here are the bullet points:

  • A stress injury can creep up on you with little warning. I literally woke up one day and could not open a jar of pickles. (Why is she having pickles for breakfast?)

  • Ergonomic knitting is not enough to prevent injury.

  • It is very hard to get rid of.

  • The only solution to repetitive stress is to stop doing the action that caused the injury. Typing? Tennis? Knitting? Stop that.

  • When you feel a "twinge" don't take a 5 minute break. Take a 5 day break. I know, I know, but it's true, and you know in your heart that this is sound advice.

  • It's a crapshoot: some people knit a sweater a week and never have a twinge. Other people will get it from stirring soup. Or opening pickle jars in a pickle factory. (But why would you open pickle jars in a pickle factory, wouldn't you be putting the lids on? Shush, just go with it.)

  • Didn't listen to sensible advice and you've gone ahead and injured yourself anyways?
    R. I. C. E: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
    . At bed time, I put my gel ice pack in a pillowcase, wrap it snugly around my hand, and read. RICEing has been the most effective home treatment. Better than wrist stabilizers or ibuprofen.


Be smart and pain-free with your hands, and you can open as many pickle jars as you want. Unless you have repetitive pickle jar stress, then, see above.


The usual disclaimer: This article contains research from various health sites as well as anecdotal information from my own experience. Don't use any of the information on this page to substitute for the advice of a health professional. Correct diagnosis and treatment for injuries shoudn't come from a knitting blog. Durh.





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