Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Pain of Crocheting or Ways to manage or avoid hand, wrist, arm, or next pain.

Hey guys! I apologize for how long it's been since my last post. Life's been busy, busy, busy!

While we all enjoy crochet and the lovely results of our time and work, there is a not-so-fun side that many people don't talk about. I've been crocheting for over twenty years now and its only been within the last five that hand and arm pain has really become an issue. At first, I thought this was simply because of the massive amount of projects I tend start in mid November and push myself to finish by Christmas. However, I also have a few friends who deal with this problem quite regularly and one suggested this topic for a post (Sorry it took so long to actually get it posted.)

There are a few different causes of pain while crocheting. We will go over them as well as ways to prevent pain and deal with it when it does happen.

As with any pain, if you are having continued and/or intense pain, you should discuss it with a licensed medical professional. I am not a Doctor or other medical professional. Please be safe and take you health seriously. 

Now, lets talk about types of pain while crocheting, the most common causes, and ways to prevent or help relieve it:

  1. Neck/Shoulder/Back
    • This type of pain is generally caused by prolonged periods of time spent sitting and looking down while crocheting.
    • Sitting for long periods of time is not healthy normally and can cause all different kinds of back/leg/hip/shoulder/neck pain. This is especially true when you spend the entire time looking down at a crochet project. 
    • Preventing this type of pain is simple; Take breaks. For every thirty minutes to an hour you sit crocheting, take ten to fifteen minutes to get up and move around. Go for a walk, step outside for a few minutes. Just get up and stretch out your muscles.
    • If you do start having this type of pain, Take a longer break from crocheting and try to relax those muscles. Heating pads or a hot shower can go a long way toward making you feel better.
  2. Eye pain/Blur
    • I find this is an issue not many people consider when crocheting. 
    • Depending on how small and intricate your project is, this can be a more important issue. 
      • I find when working with thread (while making a doily or lace) I often need to wear my reading glasses to help with eye strain.
    • If your eyes start feeling tired, painful, or your vision blurs, take a break. Look somewhere farther away for a while. 
      • Across the room, out the window, etc.
  3. Hand/Wrist/Arm
    • These are the most common types of pain I hear about from other crocheters. 
    • If you have had previous issues with Carpal Tunnel, Arthritis, or other hand/wrist/arm injuries, it can make this type of pain a bigger and more serious issue.
      • If this is something you have to consider, please discuss this issue with your doctor. 
    • If your hands/wrists/arms are otherwise healthy, use common sense when dealing with fatigue or muscle strain. 
    • Take breaks!
      • I cannot stress this enough! Breaks are important. Let your hands/wrists/arms rest every once in a while. 
      • I understand being excited to finish a project or wanting to get it done on time. There are times when I have pushed through the pain to finish a project by a deadline I had set. Doing this can cause the pain to worsen, last longer than it normally would, decrease your ability to use the hand/wrist/arm for an extended amount of time, and has the potential cause more damaging and serious injury.
    • If you are having forearm pain, simple Carpal Tunnel stretches or exercises can help loosen up forearm muscles and lessen pain. 
      • Please check out this post by WebMD for some fantastic examples of  Stretching Exercises to Help Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome I use most of them daily.
      • Even if Carpal Tunnel is not something you are worried about or currently dealing with, these stretching exercises are a good idea both before an after crocheting.

I'm going to spend the rest of this post discussing a few more hand pain prevention/management suggestions. I'm discussing these separately because they center more around products and less around simple changes to your routine. 

First, lets talk about crochet hooks and how different kinds can help prevent pain:
Standard crochet hooks are pretty thin (even when using larger sizes.) This can add additional strain on your hands and the muscles in your forearm simply because you have to use a tighter grip when using them. 

Boye Brand Ergonomic Handle:
This is a good option if you don't want to by new hooks for every size. However, I did not find this handle very comfortable to use and it took quite a while to adjust and be able to crochet easily with it. Unless you are overly restrained by budget, this is not one I would recommend. 

Boye Brand Hooks:

Boye (as well as most other brands) also makes individual, ergonomic crochet hooks. I find these tend to be easier to use and adjust to. They are going to cost a bit more than the standard aluminum hooks, but the benefits are worth it. Honestly, looking at these for the first time, I couldn't imagine they would make the amount of difference they did. 

Susan Bates:
I own a few Susan Bates bamboo handled aluminum hooks. They are beautiful! However, as the handle does not extend over the grip, they do not add a whole lot in terms of pain prevention. They do give most of your hand a wider area to grip but depending on how you hold your hook (overhand or underhand) this style might not help you at all. This hook took almost no adjustment time to crochet normally with. 

Most recently, I have been using Yarnology brand acrylic crochet hooks and I LOVE them. At first, I thought the design of the handle would be a bit awkward to hold, but its not. It actually gives you several different options on how to hold the hook so you can adjust and hold it in a way that is comfortable to you. They are light weight and smooth. They have the hook size printed on the lower part of the handle. The handle is wide enough to adjust your hand to a more healthy grip size without being uncomfortable. It didn't take long at all to adjust to using it. 


If you are looking for a more personal touch, enjoy handmade tools, and have a little extra money to spend on new hooks, I encourage you to check out Etsy for some really amazing hooks. Click here for a direct link to an Etsy search for ergonomic crochet hooks. You will find handmade as well as manufactured ones here.


If you are like me and love any simple DIY, there are tons of tutorials online for how to modify your current steel/aluminum hooks to be more ergonomic. Please check out this simple tutorial from Dabbles & Babbles for a how-to DIY Polymer Clay Crochet Hook Handle. Polymer Clay is simple to use, it cures in your oven, is relatively cheap, and easy to find in amounts small enough for one or two hooks at a time.  Most importantly, you can customize your hooks to fit your needs and style. Tip: consider using rubber letter/number stamps to press the hook size into the end of your handle for easy identification later.

Okay, now that we've covered hooks, lets talk about managing hand/wrist/arm pain when it does happen. I want to note that while all of these look like they focus mainly on the hand/wrist, they can also be use to relieve forearm pain as the muscles in the forearm are often strained due to the repetitive wrist/hand movements involved in crochet.  There are a few different approaches and each has its pros and cons. 

There are many different brands of compression gloves. 

They can be found in almost any price range and in most stores. These are fantastic to use while crocheting. The only issue is finding an appropriate size. They should fit snugly without cutting off circulation. I would suggest reading customer reviews as different brands tend to stretch and sag with extended use.

I have had many people tell me they use a thumb stabilizing brace to help ease hand/wrist/arm pain.
This type of brace is especially helpful with more intense pain (like you might have if you have pushed through the pain to finish a project.) I have personally used one to help with upper forearm pain. Stabilizing/reducing thumb movement can give strained muscles time to heal and help ease pain. The drawback to this type is comfort and you obviously cannot crochet very well while wearing it. However, you should probably be taking an extended break from crochet if you are having the type of pain you would need this one for. 

A good compromise between these two types is an over the thumb wrist stabilizing wrap. 

This type of wrap is soft. It doesn't have any hard bars or plates like the brace does. It is comfortable to wear and allows you to crochet while wearing it as long as you do not have any intense pain. It also helps stabilize/support your thumb and has some of the same benefits of the compression glove. The biggest advantage of this type of support is it is adjustable. The Velcro end can attach to any part of the wrap meaning it can fit all hand sizes with almost no effort. 

All-in-all, the best route you can take is prevention. Take breaks. Buy/DIY more ergonomic and healthy tools. Don't push yourself. If it hurts, stop. If it keeps hurting, contact your Doctor.

Be safe and have fun.
Thanks for reading,

If you raise chickens, keep an eye out for a pattern I'm currently working on for a fun and handy egg gathering apron in both adult and child sizes.