Crafting Christmas Gifts? Beware The Injuries!

Repetitive stress injuries are fairly common among knitters and crocheters.  Personally, I hurt my elbow last year from knitting a lot with bad technique (which I have since corrected).  Unfortunately, the tennis elbow came back this year when I started spending hours a day crocheting a blanket (this one).  I’m pretty sure it was tennis elbow, but I was never officially diagnosed.  Probably because I don’t go to the doctor unless I’m dying or need a new contact lens prescription.  Actually, that isn’t a good way to maintain my health.  I drink a lot of green tea, though!  That helps, right?  Right?

Anyway!  Tennis elbow isn’t the only problem affecting crafters.  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can occur from repetitive wrist movements, “especially if the wrist is bent down.”  For those who spend December frantically knitting and crocheting Christmas presents like I do,* Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other repetitive stress disorders are a very real concern.

knitting, knit, purse, mattress stitch, stripes

Knitting this purse was what kickstarted my struggle with tennis elbow. Well, technically, the problem occurred when I knit it with bad technique. Who knew that bad technique could cause such severe pain? At least my mom loves the purse.

If constant crafting is causing you pain or discomfort, don’t be afraid to present your unfinished project or a picture of it to its intended recipient on Christmas.  Simply tell him/her that the repetitive movements made your hands hurt and that you need extra time to recover before finishing the gift.  Of course, if you show someone the unfinished project with knitting needles and everything still in it, make sure you get it back!

Unless the recipients are bratty, selfish ingrates who don’t deserve your beautiful handmade works in the first place, they should understand.

In the meantime, take care of yourself.  Be sure to rest your hands periodically.  Don’t try to make something that’s too big to finish before Christmas.  Take time to relax and enjoy the holidays.  If you are busier than a Hollywood plastic surgeon, consider the power of saying “no.”  It is unfair to everyone – especially you! – when you stretch yourself in too many directions and find that you just can’t do everything you’ve committed to doing.

cat, kitty, maine coon, ginger, ibsen, long hair, american longhair, busy

“I’m so busy I could just die!” (Sometimes Ibsen gets a little overwhelmed by the amount of fur he has to clean.)

Besides all that, make sure that you stretch your crafting muscles every once in awhile.  I wouldn’t go running without stretching my legs, so why would I craft without stretching my hands and arms?  As a crafter and a pianist, stretching my hands is doubly important for me.  Gotta stay in shape, yo!  In case you don’t know where to start, I’ll share some of my favorite guides for stretches.

A massage therapist suggested some stretches in this post from knitfreedom.com: Top 5 Stretches For Knitting Pain And Stiffness.  Surely a massage therapist counts as an informed guide!  My personal favorite is the thumb stretch (number 4).  My thumb muscle gets really stiff and tight after I’ve been knitting or crocheting for awhile.

Kathleen Cubley of knittingdaily.com detailed a few simple stretches here:  Your Most Important Knitting Tools.  I found this article about a year ago, and I still do these exercises all the time.  The wrist stretch is an immense help for me.  It actually feels really good right after I wake up in the mornings.

Lastly, I found a video pertaining specifically to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome in a post on boingboing.net.  It is presented from the perspective of a drummer, but the exercises are still pertinent to crafters, pianists, and many others.  Here is the video itself:

Christmas is my favorite time of year and I enjoy making presents for my loved ones.  All the same, I need to take care of myself.  Nothing good will come of repetitive stress disorders!  Please keep that in mind during the holidays.  Take care of yourself and have a wonderful Christmas!

P.S. – What are you crafting this holiday season?  I’d love to hear about your special projects.

*In case you’re wondering, that’s part of the reason I haven’t posted about video games in a few weeks.  I’ve been crafting instead of gaming, so I have very few video game topics to discuss.

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