Knitting and Tendonitis - A Cautionary Tale

By Missy Robinson

Do you practice hand care?

I know you.... I know you because I am you. I often find myself knitting away "just one more row" and 25 rows later, my hands are aching. Sound familiar?

I wanted to share a recent experience that can affect us all as knitters. About 4 months ago, I was knitting the "one more row" this (as my usual practice) and guess what happened? The next day, I was crippled with pain to the point that I couldn't even grip an envelope without severe pain. My entire left forearm was throbbing and swollen. I couldn't even lift a coffee cup, let alone knit... and it broke my heart!

I went to an occupational therapist and confirmed my fear: I had severe tendonitis from my outer and inner elbow to my fingers and I was on knitting restriction. I got a whole suite of exercises, a couple of braces and several instructions of how to care for my injury and to heal properly. I have been diligently following directions, but my injury was so extreme, that to this day, I am babying it and rarely knitting. I keep trying - which is probably not the best idea, honestly - but as a continental knitter, using my left index finger to guide yarn still isn't comfortable. It takes time to come back from that - and I'm still doing the exercises!

So let me be a cautionary tale. Just as athletes need to continuously train muscles to remain healthy and injury-free, so do we! Knitting is a very repetitive motion and it's easy to zone out and just go on your merry way cranking out washcloth after washcloth or the entire yolk of a sweater in one sitting. I get it! Listen, it's a real bummer not being able to knit. Typically, if I'm sittin', I'm knittin', but the biggest bummer is dealing with pain while trying to accomplish the most basic of daily tasks.

It's important to take a break, stretch those fingers and wrists to keep your most important tools - your hands - in tip top shape! I'm sharing the exercises my occupational therapist shared with me. She gave me very specific instructions to heal my injury - but she also said that it's equally important take breaks and perform some exercises when I'm back to knitting. I likely wouldn't have had an injury at all if I had been doing this all along.

Don't be like me! Do some hand stretching and strength training now and then!

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a doctor. Please don't take medical advice from some rando on the internet.  It's me, I'm the rando.  You've heard it before, but it's true - you should absolutely consult your own physician before starting any exercise program. The exercises I share here are purely for informational purposes and no medical claim is intended. Talk to your doctor for a specific treatment plan that's right for you.