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hand health for crochet artists
Crochet Tips & Tricks

Hand Health for Crochet Artists

Tip Tuesday

On the tail end of a major project with a tight deadline, I’m very proud of my accomplishment. I’m weaving in my ends and packing it to send to the magazine, and it feels good. But my hands…do not.

I know that some of it is just exhaustion. Even a runner would have sore legs after a marathon. But at times like these I am reminded of how important it is to keep my hands healthy. They work hard.

So, I get out the old tool kit of things to help my sore hands. A lot of things help heal them when they are overworked, but the best tools are the ones that prevent this kind of fatigue.

So here are my favorites, some of them actual tools, some of them things you can do daily for hand maintenance.

A few of these things are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any of them through these links, it contributes to my ability to write more free patterns.

Preventative

Stretch

Every day before you pick up your hook, do a few quick stretches. Stretching increases blood flow, literally “warming up” your joints and preparing your muscles to work.

I do 4 Daily Stretches with my hands to help them limber up.

Don’t Forget Your Arms!

Your hands are the obvious body part in need of stretches, but don’t forget that your shoulders, upper back, and arms are going to be working too. For me, my triceps are the most angry after a long hooking binge. And when my triceps are tired, other parts compensate.

Try putting your arm behind your head, your elbow straight up, and gently pull your elbow with your other hand to stretch out that tricep.

Then stretch your neck. Take the same arm and pull it behind your back while you lower your head to the opposite shoulder. Think about stretching that shoulder down as far as you can.

Use Ergonomic Tools

Crochet hooks with larger handles are going to be easier on your hands in the long run. They force you to open your grip on the hook. This prevents clenching your fist around it and stressing your hands more.

There are plastic ergonomic handles you can use by sliding your metal hooks into them. There are also lots of padded hooks on the market that will help greatly, but the larger handle, the better.

I swear by Furls crochet hooks for ergonomic hooks. They take a lot of the work out of crocheting. Yes, they are a bit more expensive, but they last forever and come with a hand health guarantee.

Support Your Elbows

Since I work in my office most of the time, I make sure to have a chair that has moveable arm rests. This way I can support my elbows on them when I need to. Supporting both of my elbows brings my work closer to my face without making me lift half a blanket.

Another great option for this is a Boppy pillow. Originally for nursing mothers, these make great lap pillows to rest your elbows on while you work. You can put it in front of you or behind you and rest your elbows while using the rest as a back roll.

Get A Massage

This one is a life-saver for me. I try to regularly get a full-body massage. I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders anyway, and adding crochet to that makes for a lot of knots. (Pun totally intended.) Over-worked hands lead to sore arms and sore shoulders. Your neck and upper back compensate for sore shoulders, then your low back compensates for your sore upper back — any over-worked body part can lead to pain and tightness in other corresponding muscles. A full body massage once a month or so can be like pushing the reset button on your muscles.


Recovery

In spite of any and all preventative measures, there will always be tight deadlines or heavy blankets that cause strain on your hands, arms, and neck.

When that happens, here are my favorite methods for helping with pain, recurring or otherwise.

Pain Relieving Creams

My absolute favorite warming/pain relieving cream is Sombra. I have used it for years for sore muscles from when I rode horses, and now it works great on my sore arm and neck muscles.

Keep in mind that joint pain and muscle pain are different. If you feel sore joints, topical warm pain relief creams probably won’t help. In the case of sore joints, you will need NSAID pain relievers that are also anti-inflamatory, like Aleve or Ibuprofen.

Compression Gloves

Traditionally used for arthritis, compression gloves are great for helping relieve exhausted hands and decrease inflammation. You can get them at craft stores in the yarn tool section or you can get them at a drug store with other wraps and braces.

I have these in the Recovery section because I haven’t found them to do as much when worn regularly, but they make a great improvement to add some stability to tired wrists and fingers.

Epsom Salt Soaks

Just like you would soak your sore feet in warm water, you can do the same with your hands. Fill a large bowl with very warm water (but not too hot) and add 1 cup of epsom salt. I like to set the bowl on a towel on my lap while I soak my hands. Soak your hands for 15 minutes once or twice a day to help heal those exhausted hands.


When To See A Doctor

If you have any of the following symptoms, you need to talk to a doctor. Some are signs of carpel tunnel or tendonitis, and they just can’t be ignored.

  • Weakness in your hands causing you to drop objects.
  • Numbness or tingling in your thumb, index finger, or middle finger ANY of your fingers!
  • Fingers that have trouble bending and unbending or click/pop open and closed.
  • Swelling or discoloration in any part of your hands or fingers.
  • Difficulty moving your thumb or pain at the base of your thumb.
  • Pain that persists for longer than a week.

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When it doubt, trust your doctor. And be sure to tell them about any pain you are having associated with your craft.

Don’t forget it! Pin it!

Yarn on,

Kati

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2 Comments

  • Zeke

    Hi! I love everything about this article, but I did want to mention one thing. In the “you should see a doctor section” you mentioned numbness or tingling or pain in the thumb and first 2 fingers. Definitely go to the doctor if its happening to your pinky or ring finger and pinky as well! It can be a sign of damage to the ulnar nerve, kinda like a cousin of carpal tunnel I guess?

    Maybe I’m just an oddity, but it started as “just” pins-and-needles in my non-dominant pinky that would fade soon after I stopped crocheting, I wrote it off as my hand falling asleep somehow. Over time it spread to my ring finger and down my palm to my wrist, but it wasn’t until elbow pain joined in that I realized it was more than hand fatigue from crocheting a lot.

    • Kati Brown

      Yikes! I have amended that section so people know to watch ALL of their fingers for numbness or pain. Thank you so much for your advice and experience on this. I know anything related to hand health can be a bit scary, and this is no exception!

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