By Jamie Arnold
Staff Writer, BackPainRelief.net
It’s no secret that winter is prime time for crafting. Cooler weather as well as a run of holidays give knitting and crochet enthusiasts plenty of excuses for whipping up cozy mittens, chunky scarves and other unique stocking stuffers, often on short notice. Marathon crafting sessions can result in some of our best work – but they can also lead to lingering pain in the hands, neck and upper back.
Hunching over projects, craning your neck to see tiny stitches and details, sitting in the same position for too long – all of these things can lead to achy burning shoulders and stiff backs and necks. It’s a catch-22: You need to finish your projects, but being in pain can make that harder each day!
Fortunately, there are a some pretty easy, inexpensive and surprising ways to avoid the crafting pain trap. Check out the symptoms, causes and cures to your discomfort below and learn how to finish your crafts and feel great through while making them!
Symptom: Stiff neck, upper back pain, headaches, fatigue
Cause: Stooping or slouching over a project causing fatigue in your muscles and ligaments; weight from your head, when it is held down, straining the upper back and neck
Solution: Take steps to make visualizing projects easier
Fix your glasses – or get a pair: Craning your neck down to see small stitches more clearly? Your glasses may be scratched or the prescription might be out of date. Other times, we simply haven’t recognized that it’s time for reading glasses! Get your prescription updated or invest in some drugstore magnifying spectacles. How do you know if you’re craning your neck too much while crafting? If you have to hold a piece inches from your face to see details, it’s time for some new glasses.
Try bigger stitches: Larger stitches are easier to see, reducing the need to bend your neck down to see small details. Using a bulkier yarn isn’t always practical for some projects, such as fine crochets. But chunky yarns are definitely in and there are plenty Red Heart yarn patterns to use them in. Not only can working with bigger hooks and stitches create some beautiful items, it can spare you neck, shoulder and back pain.
Practice “mindful crafting”: Pay attention to your stance; many of us may find we are hunching our shoulders or holding uncomfortable poses while crafting. Just taking a moment to document how you may be sitting or holding your neck, arms or hands can help you make corrections that your body will thank you for later.
Symptom: Lower back pain
Cause: Sitting in stationary postures stresses the back, especially in the lumbar region just below the rib cage; sitting can also place pressure on the back muscles and spinal discs, especially in a non-supportive seat
Solution: Get proper back support
Invest in good supportive chair cushions: This can be a fancy lumbar pillow with curved support or, if you can’t invest in a high-end cushion, some firm pillows placed behind you to give your back adequate support. Your back should feel relaxed but upright.
Try crafting in a rocking chair: It might sound a little old-fashioned, but the fact is, rocking chairs not only offer stable support for your back, they’ve long been used in back pain therapy. Crafting on a cozy couch might seem more appealing, but working on projects for a long time while sitting on a chair or sofa without the best back support is asking for trouble.
Symptom: Headaches, neck pain, upper back pain
Cause: Ergonomically unsound crafting spaces promote unnatural positions; tight muscles pre-dispose the body to injury
Solution: Creating an ergonomically sound craft space; stretching prior to crafting
Use adjustable iPad/tablet stands: Isn’t modern technology great – with a few swishes of your finger, you can find and download a pattern, even watching step-by-step YouTube videos and working along. But looking down at a tablet can again place weight on your neck that leads to upper back strain and iPad neck. Chiropractors suggest using an adjustable tablet stand that lets you view your tablet at a more natural angle.
Try yoga for crafters: Yoga has long been celebrated as a great way to lose weight and maintain general wellness. But it also promotes flexibility, which can reduce your likelihood of back pain and injuries. Check out this guide to yoga for crafters for some basic stretches you can do to limber up your joints and prevents discomfort from crocheting or knitting.
Perhaps the best tip for crafters is to give yourself a break! Have some tea, watch a show or even take a quick nap to let your muscles rest and rejuvenate. This also helps your mind reset – we’ve all spent hours on a piece and grown frustrated. Sometimes you simply need a break. Rest at 30- to 60-minute intervals and you’ll find your chances of pain reduced and your mind clearer.
Who knows, when you come back that tough stitch might not seem so tricky. Happy crafting!