1 2 3 4 5 6 7 -->

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Crochet, RSI and me

Crochet……..

What do you think when you hear this word?

6 months ago when I heard the word ‘crochet’ I would to be filled with thoughts of all the lovely things I had seen on Ravelry and Pinterest that I could make whilst spending lazy days on the sofa watching back to back episodes of The Walking Dead or catching up on all those classic films I ‘should’ have seen but hadn’t. I had just finished an intensive research PhD and was having a bit of breathing space, exploring my creativity with hook and yarn and recuperating.

Now when I hear the word ‘crochet’ the word that comes to mind is ‘ouch’! Seconded by ‘should I be doing this?’ ‘how much crochet did I do yesterday?’. I can no longer crochet for hours in front of the TV, as in the summer after an intense 2 week period of crocheting for almost 6 hours daily, I succumbed to Repetitive Strain Injury, or RSI for short. 


The medical definition of RSI is “a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse.” (Source link- NHS Website)

RSI is usually caused by carrying out continuous repetitive activity for prolonged periods of time without taking adequate rest breaks. It can also be caused by poor posture and stress, with the most common symptoms including pain and/or tenderness, tingling or numbness and also cramp.

So, what are you doing when you crochet? You are carrying out small repetitive movements of your arm, repeatedly for long periods of time, often in my case with bad posture added in. No wonder so many crocheters suffer from this condition!

The thing about RSI is that if you stop the repetitive activity as soon as you get an inkling of pain, rest for a while, and moderate your crochet time (plus take regular breaks) you should recover pretty quickly. If however, like me you start crocheting too soon after an injury you can end up in a worse position than you started in. 


After my initial injury I had a week off from crocheting. On the first day I didn’t feel pain in my wrist I crocheted for 3 hours. The next day I was in agony- I couldn’t cut up food, I couldn’t write and I couldn’t use the computer. The pain extended all the way down my right side affecting my right wrist, elbow, shoulder and side of my neck. In the end I had to make the decision to take a month off from crochet (knitting was also too painful) and from the computer to let my arm recover. This wasn’t easy as I find it hard to totally relax and switch off and I missed crocheting so badly! In the meanwhile I read a lot of books and tried to remain positive. As the weeks went on I realised that I could cut up an onion without feeling pain, then I could use the computer for increasing amounts of time, then finally I could knit and crochet- not for very long mind! I am now at the point, 6 months down the line where I can do everything I did before, but in moderation and with lots of rest breaks. For example I try to have a couple of days off a week from crochet. I have also found that exercising has been the best solution for me. I now swim twice a week and I think it has made the world of difference. My wrist still isn't ‘right’. It clicks and grinds inside (it sounds pretty horrible!) but I only have minimal pain. Whilst I believe I may need medical intervention at some point, if I am incredibly careful and keep the strength up in my arm through swimming then I can pretty much function as before. 


At this time I was just crocheting for fun, but what if your career depended on your ability to crochet (and to tight deadlines too)? 

Joanne Scrace of Not So Granny is a designer of beautiful contemporary crochet and knitwear and says that RSI is always at the forefront of a designers mind.

 
Photo by Kat Goldin
“I first noticed pain when I was rushing for a knitting deadline last Easter and I had a shocking bout of pain crocheting with a particularly resistant yarn over Christmas. I find that working on either craft for too long (in terms of both at a sitting and for too many weeks) can cause me pain. With knitting the pain tends to be in my shoulder and wrist, crochet affects the elbow too. It’s my right side that's affected each time. It’s really scary because this is both my livelihood and my passion and joy.Where practical I try and alternate projects so a crochet project follows a knitting one and vice versa. I have also looked carefully at my techniques and tried to improve them to minimise movement and stress. This has improved knitting strain a lot. I try to avoid or limit work that is at a very tight gauge as this works the joints harder. I've found that doing some strength training has helped too as it is building up the compensatory muscles in my arms, creating a better balance.”





Both Joanne and I injured ourselves from too much knitting and crochet. Daisy Jones of Lazy Daisy Jones is a blogger and crochet addict, who has also suffered from RSI recently. However, her problems are attributed to an independent injury, exacerbated by crochet. I posed a few questions to Daisy.

SS: When did you start experiencing pain? Do you think there was a particular trigger? Do you get pain in one specific area or is it more generalised?

LDJ: I think I had previously banged my arm and bruised my elbow as this is where the pain was most intense. Long sessions of crochet did not help and possibly aggravated the pain.

SS: Are there particular stitches that make the pain worse or alleviate it? If the injury was caused by crochet, are you ok knitting for example?

LDJ: I do not knit! Therefore long hours of granny squares over the course of a week did not help with the pain.

SS: Do you have any mechanisms to cope with the pain or do you just put up with and work through it?

LDJ: When the pain started I took Nurofen lots of it!

SS: If you have had to completely stop crocheting, what did you do to stop yourself going insane?!

LDJ: Luckily I sew; therefore I turned to my faithful old friend ‘Jenny Janome’.

SS: How have you changed your working practices to speed recovery and prevent re-injury?

LDJ: I try to rest after an hour of crochet, do some arm stretches. I have also changed my seating position on the sofa, making sure I have plenty of arm room.

My cure for this injury was a visit to the doctor and a have large injection of cortisone into my elbow.

............................................................


It is clear to see that improving technique and posture is key to both recovery and preventing RSI in the first place. As is taking regular breaks, stretching and exercising. Alternating activities is also beneficial, with Joanne alternating regularly between knitting and crochet and Daisy turning her hand to sewing.

I think it is vitally important to recognise the signs of RSI early to prevent irreparable injury. But I also think it is important to spread the word that crochet can be ‘dangerous’, that RSI can effect anyone, and that whilst it is great to crochet for hours and hours in front of the TV, you may be harming yourself without realising. The 3 things I tell my new crochet students are:

1. Sit up straight on a proper chair (no lounging on the sofa which I am definitely guilty of)

2. Take regular breaks (a wrist stretch every half hour and a proper break every hour)

3. Use ergonomic crochet hooks*

4. Crochet is incredibly fun, rewarding and addictive so follow the 3 points above and you will have years of crochet ahead of you!

*A quick note on ergonomic crochet hooks. These hooks are designed to be easy to hold and minimise the strain on your hands and wrists- they ‘work’ with your body. There are many makes out there so try a couple and see how you get on.

                            Joanne’s favourites: KnitPro, Tulip, Clover Amour                     
                            Daisy's favourites: Bamboo handled hooks
                            My favourites: KnitPro, Clover Soft Touch
                                                                                                


I would like to say a massive thank you to Joanne and Daisy for contributing to this post. I believe it is a really important subject, but there is also a bit of stigma attached to it, especially if it affects your work. I hope that this post will make others suffering from RSI from their job or favourite hobby feel less alone. It appears to be a much more common condition amongst crocheters than at first glances!

If you have any experiences with RSI from knitting or crochet and would like to share any hints and tips you may have I would love to hear from you,

SS xx

10 comments:

  1. Such an interesting subject and a great post to highlight this issue that many people do not realise can happen to anyone at anytime.
    bestest Daisy x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Daisy and once again thanks so much for contributing!

      Delete
  2. This is a really interesting and well written post. It something that needs to talked about. Crochet is seen as an old lady activity and harmless. Nothing is totally harmless and we need to do everything in moderation. Even something like crochet!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it is so true. When I first got RSI I thought I was the only one 'out there' with it but actually it is quite a common (and often preventable) condition amongst crocheters.

      Delete
  3. Thank you for writing this! I am fairly new to crotchet. I finished my law degree and decided to take a few months off to recover. My mum taught me crotchet and I am literally hooked! When I was doing lots of various stitches I was fine then I decided to make an amigurumi rabbit. The repetitive single crotchet for hours on end has resulted in me having numb tingling fingers on my hook hand. I took a few days off but started up again as I wanted to complete my bunny for my daughter by Christmas. I haven't gained sensation back in my last 3 fingers for 3 days now. I thought I was alone in suffering crotchet injuries! I have decided to see the Dr and then I will return to crotchet in small bursts. I don't have pain as such but loss of sensation is a very scary result of rsi.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for writing this! I am fairly new to crotchet. I finished my law degree and decided to take a few months off to recover. My mum taught me crotchet and I am literally hooked! When I was doing lots of various stitches I was fine then I decided to make an amigurumi rabbit. The repetitive single crotchet for hours on end has resulted in me having numb tingling fingers on my hook hand. I took a few days off but started up again as I wanted to complete my bunny for my daughter by Christmas. I haven't gained sensation back in my last 3 fingers for 3 days now. I thought I was alone in suffering crotchet injuries! I have decided to see the Dr and then I will return to crotchet in small bursts. I don't have pain as such but loss of sensation is a very scary result of rsi.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have RSI in my forearm from too much crochet/knitting. At first I was in denial but now can't even contemplate crafts, gardening, piano, photography, anything that uses that particular muscle. Good to see it written down so thoroughly. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for this, it was quite informative.
    Oddly enough, my RSI from crochet is not in my hook-holding hand, but in my yarn & work holding (left) hand.
    So unfortunately a change of hook wouldnot make any difference and I can't really think of how else I could make my crochet more bearable, other than stopping altogether:/

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you so much for the information on RSI re: crochet. I haven't been crocheting long and love it. I've just started getting really into it and have developed pain in my elbow and shoulder. My friend/crochet teacher recommended I rest for a couple of weeks and I definitely will do so if it means that I will heal and be able to continue crocheting. Good luck to you all Janine, London x

    ReplyDelete