If you have ever crocheted for long periods of time- completing a last-minute gift or just a long session while watching television – you may have experienced some soreness, numbness, tingles, or stiffness in your wrists, neck, shoulders, forearms, and back.
If you’ve experienced any of these sensations, you’re not alone! These are all symptoms of a repetitive strain injury (RSI). In fact, 1.8 million people per year (as reported by OSHA in 2019) have RSI.
A repetitive strain injury is when tissue is damaged by repeated physical actions. These injuries can occur when typing on a keyboard, using certain trade tools, texting (think thumb cramps!), or similar activities.
If ignored and left untreated, a repetitive strain injury can unfortunately worsen. You may have a repetitive strain injury if you feel anything unusual or off with your body after a crochet session!
What If I’m Experiencing Pain?
I have a separate article about experiencing hand pain while crocheting – it discusses a bit about repetitive strain injuries and has a few creative ideas on how to prevent hand pain.
If you’re already experiencing pain, such as tingling, tightness, numbness, and cramping, you may be looking for ways to alleviate it rather than implementing preventative measures.
Naturally, if you are in pain, your primary care physician is the best person to consult. Pain, after all, is an important diagnostic tool, and the only person who can accurately diagnose a condition is a certified doctor. Please keep this in mind when reading!
There are a few things that one can do to help alleviate pain at home, such as wrapping and/or icing the area, taking an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and resting. You can also make adjustments to your workstation and try adjusting your posture while crocheting.
There are also some hand stretches and exercises that you can do to help alleviate stiffness, pain, and aches! Here, I’ve listed a few that are tried and true for me. I try to do these stretches once every 40 minutes in each crochet session.
Stretch #1 – Shoulders and Shoulder Blades
For this stretch, relax your arms at your sides. Slowly roll your shoulders back, in a circular motion. Roll counterclockwise a few times, then alternate to rolling clockwise.
Be sure to relax your shoulders during this stretch, and avoid holding any tension in your shoulder blades or in your chest.
Finish off this stretch by crossing your right arm across your body. Using your left arm, press the top of your right arm towards you. You should feel a gentle stretch in your shoulder and your shoulder blade. Press for seven to ten seconds, then release.
Cross your left arm across your body, and use your right arm to repeat the process to stretch your left side.
You can also stretch your shoulder blades by raising an arm over and behind your shoulder, then pressing or pulling gently with your opposite arm.
Stretch #2 – Wrist Press and Wrist/ Forearm Flex
Press your palms together, as if in prayer, in front of your body.
Slowly raise your elbows up while dropping your pressed palms down toward the ground to gently stretch your wrists.
Press toward the ground for a few seconds, then lower your elbows and raise your palms back toward the starting position.
Repeat this two or three times to help relieve any pressure or cramping in your wrists.
For a different wrist stretch that incorporates your forearms, lace your fingers together facing away from your body.
Press your arms away from you, straightening them and gently pushing your fingers away from your chest. Hold for a few seconds, then release.
Stretch #3 – Spine Twist
This one is simple! Either seated or standing, slowly twist 90 degrees at the waist until you’re facing right. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly twist back to the center.
Repeat the same movement, but this time twist to the left. Return back to center after holding for a few seconds.
Repeat this twist from right to center to left to center a few times. Be sure not to hold tension in your arms while twisting!
Stretch #4 – Neck Twist & Rotation
I personally experience pain in my neck and shoulders when I crochet. I hold my head at a downward angle for long periods of time without moving. This is my favorite stretch to do!
Slowly turn your head from the right to the left side. You should feel a gentle pull on either side of your neck and along your shoulder as you turn. Repeat turning from side to side to help loosen the muscles in your neck!
Last, drop your head down towards your chest. You should feel a little stretch along your spine at the base of your neck. Next, slowly rotate your head in a circular motion. Go both counterclockwise and clockwise in direction.
As I mentioned before, if you are experiencing persistent pain, please speak with a healthcare professional.
I do not intend to diagnose or treat any ailment with these stretches – I’m simply sharing the ones that I use on a regular basis to help alleviate the normal aches and pains I experience while crocheting.