Do As I Say (Not As I Do)

By Kay Gardiner
December 17, 2020

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81 Comments
  • Yikes! I’m so glad you are back to feeling good!

  • Oh man, I can so relate!!! The only negative side effect of knitting that I can think of!

    • I have been there too! Wishing you continued health and joy! God bless us, everyone, as Tiny Tim said. That was the little Cratchet boy’s name, right? ❤

  • What a potential depressing nightmare! Thanks for the heads up and glad you’re feeling better. The houses are so cute.

  • Glad that you are better now and all it needed was rest!!!! Thank you for the reminder to listen to my body.

  • Glad you’ve healed.The heating pad has become a part of my chair. I hurt my left shoulder/upper back shoveling snow two years ago and it’s never been the same. Knitting aggravates it so I just slap on the heating pad when it starts to hurt and continue on knitting. What would be my excuse for watching countless hours of Netflix et al if I had to stop knitting? “But I’m being so productive!”

  • Thanks Kay for that word of warning – yes it ok to put the knitting down. Three physio visits later I will take notice and rest my shoulder.

  • Ouch! Glad you are better!

    I am mesmerized by your stack of tiny houses, particularly the ones that have … Um… developed corners? So very cool! This may be my post-Christmas knitting gift to myself.

    Stay healthy!

  • I was worried when you first mentioned It. But everyone is different and I wasn’t sure my experience would be helpful. This may be just be a bump in the road for you. I hope so! But it also may happen again (now that your body knows how to do it) so pay instant attention to any signs and don’t over do. The world can do without that last little knitted Christmas gift, clever cabled sweater or tiny little house square. As painful to write as it is to hear. I also find I can knit more – perversely – in warmer weather. Thank goodness for air-conditioning. (I do knit in winter, but not nearly as much.). Having said all that I have been happily clicking along during this pandemic with my plan to knit down my stash. While still indulging in a few exquisite acquisitions from the MDK store. Life changes but we can adjust to it and still keep knitting.

  • The same thing happened to me when I knit 5 baby gifts in rapid succession. Fortunately, my shoulder didn’t quit, but the poor thing required 6-8 weeks of physical therapy. People didn’t believe me when I told them I had a knitting injury.

  • P.S. Despite my comment I do love the little houses, also!

  • Whatever will you do with all the tiny cottages?

  • So glad you’re feeling better!

  • Been there, done that… I am sorry that it happened to you too. And glad that you are recovered. Once in a while, I move my arm in an “unauthorized” way and my shoulder reminds me that I need to drop my needles and move on to something else (push ups, stretch and dumbbells). One gets used to it. And gets stronger in the process. Not so sure about this part, but one can hope.
    Have a Merry Season!
    P.s.: I love your houses.

  • Please listen carefully to Kay, including you younger knitters. I ravaged my right rotator cuff last year, and after surgery and a year of PT it’s still recovering. Knitting was a major contributor (though not the only one – I’m an avid gardener too). I often continued to knit (with a heating pad) even in pain. Lest you think this is a risk only for us elders (I’m 70), know that I tore my left rotator cuff at 40. So: If it starts to hurt, STOP knitting and rest for as long as necessary – an hour or a week. It’s better than losing a year! Happy, Happy Solstice and New Year, everyone!

    • Recovering from rotator tear surgery as we speak…still do jot know the true cause, because I’m pretty active, but I’m sure knitting contributed to the worsening pain and need for treatment. Looking forward to doing all those things we take for granted….like putting a shirt over my head….,,,

  • I can certainly relate. I have a shoulder injury and I overdid it with my hands lately as well. That’s a nightmare for me to think of not knitting or painting and drawing.

  • I love my chiropractor. Just saying. 😉

  • Ah yes, for me, it’s my thumb joints. Welcome to a certain age. BTW, I was so inspired by your tiny house pillows I made some, stuffed them with balsam, and they made their recipients quite happy! There’s a flying kites throw in my future.

    • Try the Push MetaBrace. Spend but it sure works!

      • Amen! I started having pain in my hand and forearm while knitting or sewing just before Thanksgiving. I stopped both, hard and depressing as it was, and made an appointment with a hand orthopedist, fearful of a diagnosis of carpal tunnel. To my surprise, on Tuesday I learned that I have arthritis in my left thumb and was given a Push MetaBrace. It’s relatively comfortable and isn’t interfering with my knitting. As a bonus, It was covered by my insurance!

        I bought Carson Demers’ book when it was first published. It is a goldmine of prevention tips for injuries that can be caused by knitting and typing. Its focus is on muscles and tendons rather than arthritis. Lesson learned, don’t wait if you’re in pain or rely on self-diagnosis.

        I’m going to follow the doctor’s advice, “Use it but don’t abuse it”.

  • I have been on the edge of where you started before. The advisement is well taken as I had much rather take a short break from knitting then being forced to take a longer and much more painful break. Grateful you are doing better

  • Oh dear!! I have been experiencing the exact same thing. So much so that a visit to an orthopedic shoulder doc revealed what we all know knitting can do – repetitive stress. So off to physical therapy, dry needling and knitting only 20 minutes at a time with exercise breaks. So no holiday knitting for me this year. But it is 2020, so it’s fitting that it is now screwing with my knitting
    I am glad you are on the mend! Happy holidays!

  • I learned this lesson this year, with my hands. After trying all sorts of exercises and therapy I realized that what I needed was to STOP KNITTING. So I won’t be giving knitted presents for Christmas. So what? And when I watch TV I actually look at the screen the whole time! It’s been a real sea change, and now I only knit every few days at the most, but my hands were not working – stiff and in pain – and now they’re fine!

  • I, too, was getting pain in my right shoulder. I attributed it to holding my newborn grandson in awkward positions for too long. Then I lost range of motion in it, luckily not for everyday tasks, but for certain yoga poses. Anyway, I ended up going to a physical therapist for several weeks. I was diagnosed with my shoulder and my shoulder blade muscles were not working together, and frozen shoulder. Many exercises later and I’m almost back to normal. My PT told me that pain is either a sign of poor mechanics or an injury. She never attributed my issues to knitting, but I suppose that could have contributed. Even sleeping position can contribute to shoulder problems.

  • Thirty years ago I celebrated my daughters’ growth by knitting. Since I no longer had to follow them constantly at the playground, I sat and knit. Knit whenever I could and every evening after they went to bed. Five-six hours a day, I was in heaven. And then one day I couldn’t hold a pencil. Couldn’t turn a knob. The dr declared carpel tunnel but I wasn’t quite bad enough for surgery. He sent me to hand therapist where I learned tendon gliding and nerve gliding exercises. It took months of 5 times a day hand workouts and I was able to knit but moderation became key. Every 20 minutes stop and stretch muscles. Two hours max. Knitting and all things in moderation is a good strategy.

  • I love those houses! My fingers going numb have made me slow down on my Christmas knitting.
    Sigh.

  • For me it was Alice Starmore and hours of stranded knitting on a frigid weekend while the rest of my family had gone away skiing. By the end of the weekend, the sweater was up to the armholes, and my left arm was no longer functional. It took months of no knitting, three different doctors, three cortisone shots, and a wonder ful physical therapist to get me back to normal. A lesson hard learned.

    I am glad you are feeling better. Ice after knitting was helpful for me.

  • I’m so glad you are feeling better, and your houses are fantarsia! I thought knitting only hurt your hands until a couple of years ago when my shoulder started hurting. Now I make a conscious effort to relax and take breaks, but I still get some pain. Thanks for the reminder not to push it, and I also appreciate the other comments with their reminders. Take care, and happy holidays to all!

  • For all of you who have pain while knitting check out this Fruity Knitting interview with Carson Demers PT. https://youtu.be/Yuo-99SKxxY
    As a PT myself I can attest that his info and advice is spot on and so helpful. It starts at 40:50.

    • Yes! I was just going to recommend his book, Knitting Comfortably. It’s a game changer – may be worth stocking in the shop. A readable and well illustrated compendium of all the things knitting can do to your body, and more importantly how to avoid them. Also has a bit on good computer use techniques. You can get it right from his website ergoiknit.com.
      And one thing he recommends is having multiple projects with different yarns going at once. Not a problem!

      • And it’s good to alternate knitting with weaving and spinning! varied repetitive motion, justifies my many projects at once

    • In addition to Carson’s fantastic advice, I changed my knitting style a couple of years ago after cervical radiculitis made my left shoulder and arm too painful to knit Continental. I now use Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s technique. I stay relaxed with that method and I can knit for hours with absolutely no pain. Game changer!

      • It is, indeed, how interesting to see how different we all are. (I switched to Continental before my first shoulder surgery, and it’s perfect for me.) I’m not familiar with her technique. What is it?

  • Oh, Kay! So sorry– I sympathize as I had shoulder issues last Spring. In the early days of the pandemic, I was conducting all business, including knitting, from the futon couch in my office, and I apparently did not pay sufficient attention to ergonomics or my posture. Result:painful bursitis in my right shoulder. I am struggling now with the tension between completing that last pair of fingerless mitts to include in my shipment of Xmas gifts or keeping my shoulder comfortable. Gah! 🙁

  • Ah, keep well, Kay! Pace yourself. Sending good vibes through the ether to you!

  • These are your houses so I am sure you love them all the same but WOW I love that pink one. So very glad you are better.

  • Oh dear…is the only prevention not knitting? yikes!

  • I find that lying lengthwise atop a long foam roller helps alleviate a multitude of sins. It lets my body relax and puts everything back where it belongs. (Well, most everything, ha.)

  • I made one little house to see how long to make each colour zone. I made another to try an i- cord edge all around. A third to try a 3-stitch garter edge all around (and again to make the garter edge all one colour). Then made 6 to send in the mail in cards. My body said be ware if you make any more right now…
    Timely advice Kay.

  • I’ve learned this the hard way – when my tennis elbow kicks up, its time to stop knitting, ice my elbow and rest for a couple of days. I hate it, but if I don’t I won’t knit for a few weeks instead of a few days.

  • Glad you’re feeling better. (Olive would like to point out that she’s NOT oppositional, just opinionated!)

  • This is a good wake up call for all of us. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m fast approaching entrance into the 7th decade of my life. Some decades ago I heard someone say “the sins of our youth come back to haunt us in old age.” I couldn’t understand it when I heard it but I grok it now. If you feel a twinge… be nice to it. Another thing that I heard was “use it or lose it.” Also good advice, but we should use our aging infrastructure with respect.

  • I had surgery on my hand yesterday. I’ve had arthritis of the thumb for years which has made knitting not as pleasurable as it used to be. I’m just looking at my cast and splint and wondering how long it will be before I can knit again. It could be a difficult few weeks but I know it will be worth it in the end. Its so important to listen to our bodies.

    • Having had both thumb and shoulder surgery, I think thumb is way easier. At first, especially with the cast, it’s kind of a (figurative) pain, but once you have it off and do a little PT you’ll recover quickly. For me the thumb was a few (well, maybe six) weeks of recovery, the shoulder many months (i.e. more than 12), and far more pain. After my thumb surgery I read all of Louise Penny’s books in three weeks to keep from missing knitting too much. Best of luck – you’ll be glad you did it!

  • I had a huge argument once with a doctor who told me that I could not possibly have hurt my shoulder as much as I had just from knitting.

  • Knitting is my pandemic therapy and it too went into total lockdown! The pain was horrific , especially at night, I went to the chiropractor and she worked some of the tightness out with her magic tools , then I had a couple of chair massages , after 6 weeks it’s finally eased up ! Wow ! The things we do for love knitting

  • I have a left hand that speaks to me….and a touchy right elbow. It takes courage to stop.

  • I’ve had each shoulder “frozen”, luckily not at the same time (hedge clipping too long, other the planking craze, luckily not from knitting). PT each time, advice from both “if it hurts move it!” That’s the first thing they make you do anyway! Painful. Range of motion exercises keep joints lubricated, lack of motion causes the works to gum up and “freeze”. Did PT for 6 wks, massage therapy when I could afford it and targeted shoulder exercises as part of life now (no planking). Foam roll is great! First shoulder took 3 years to completely work out that last little stubborn, deep, painful “catch” only when moving a certain way, then the other one happened! 🙁 It too is almost back to normal (I’m 64). Like sitting at a computer too long, when knitting you have to put it down, roll your shoulders and do some snow angel type moves every 30 mins or so. Whatever it takes to keep on knitting!

  • 100% yes! I already had shoulder problems, and a year ago it got so bad I had to start physical therapy. I’m doing so much better now, but I’m still working on being disciplined enough to take breaks! One big change I made once my shoulder started improving was to switch from English to continental knitting. So much less right shoulder movement in continental, especially when switching from knit to purl and back. I find it so much more efficient, too!

  • Siiting on my behind for almost two weeks….my stockings are done…reading more…..just relaxing…feels so good…..deb

  • I also have been there, but ignored it until it was much, much worse. 100% tear of my rotator cuff, surgery and 12 weeks of recovery and p.t. I did figure out a way to knit with my arm in a sling, though.

  • I have arthritis and have broken both shoulders (separately, thank heavens) and find that tumeric is a terrific anti-inflammatory. Several capsules a day has almost eliminated my need for other drugs. It may help keep a fussy shoulder happy. Happy knitting.

  • Feel better fearless knitter!❤️

  • The thing about shoulder issues is that they aren’t intuitive. You need help from an expert right away or you end up with frozen shoulder or a torn rotator cuff. I’ve had both and they are awful. Glad you doing better. Stretching is your friend. Also continental knitting, if you can swing it.

  • So happy to hear that you made a recovery and very glad that wrote about it. Repetitive strain issues in knitting are no laughing matter. It took me more than a year to recover from tendonitis due to over knitting. I was pushing through the pain until I suddenly realized I wasn’t able to knit any more. Carson Demers book Knitting Comfortably: The Ergonomics of Handknitting was a big help and I think it should be required reading for all knitters. Fortunately with massage, exercise and much reduced knitting I very slowly recovered. And now I know to exercise and stretch daily and when to pack it in for the day.

  • Be careful! Resting a shoulder too long can lead to a frozen shoulder and you don’t want to go there. Trust me! Now about my arthritic thumb…

  • The only physical therapy I have ever had was to heal my knitter’s elbow. Take heed!

  • HAppy to hear you do not have to cross the picket line! What are those tiny houses going to be. I think my three will be pillows.

  • Been there, done that. Got help when I couldn’t raise my arm up at all! No fun for sure!

  • I’m there right now, only it’s my left shoulder (trying to give my right shoulder a break!) and also my back and upper arms. Gah!!

  • Wow, all these comments are sobering, indeed. Anyone who thinks knitting isn’t a full-body workout should think again. I’ll be taking more knitting breaks, starting right now. Thanks, y’all.

  • I have been on a similar hiatus… forearm, wrist, elbow, shoulder/neck. Glad you’re doing better!!

  • Kay, so glad your shoulder is better! It’s tough to want to knit, but your body is demanding rest. Try building in some rest periods into your knitting sessions to keep your shoulder happy. Take good care.

  • Glad you’re feeling well again. Merry Christmas!

  • Glad you are better. Had a similar experience early in the pandemic as I knitted like crazy to avoid worrying about life outside of my house. Fortunately I found Carson Demers book Knitting Comfortably the Ergonomics of Handknitting. It may sound like a snooze, but it is not and it changed my knitting life. I was doing so many things wrong and with a few adjustments the pain went away. Now I am so much more productive. Spoiler alert! It did involve some “no knitting time” which was hard, but I found shopping for yarn was a great replacement and I read Melanie Falick’s book Making A Life to keep me grounded. LAS

  • Your experience furthers tells all of us we should “listen” to our bodies..they can tell us a lot when we have overworked or unknowns hurt them. Thank you for sharing as it is a good reminder. Glad to hear you are recovering and will soon be back to your projects. Have loved following you and Fassett’s fair isle and intarsia design knitting..so encouraging.

  • Also, secretly practicing Silent Night on your accordion so you can hav a private concert for your husband on Christmas Eve, only makes it worse. (posting for a friend)

  • Writing the same kind of post, and linking to yours! For me, it’s tendinitis in my forearms. Time for a break!

  • For me, the knitting pain is all in my neck, and I’ve ignored it at times for the reason you mentioned (knitting is my serenity!) It finally got to a point when I had to stop knitting for well over 3 months, which felt terrible. I’m on the other side to say I survived, I rekindled one of my other lifelong loves – reading – and I started up a new craft – yarn dyeing. Im back to almost daily knitting, and I try not to ignore those tweaks in my neck.

  • Ooh…do be careful! I’ve had surgery on both shoulders (swimming-induced, not from knitting!), and believe me, coming back from that would be a lot harder than resting your body for a few days.

    You KNOW a your body knows best, right?

  • AH! As a h.s. English teacher in “COVID school,” I have been dealing with a twingy shoulder from so much screen work and stress. My knitting has been my off screen joy (reading, too, of course). Slowly, I have realized how just because I don’t WANT it to be true, I still need to deal with the reality that my job/passion (teaching/connecting with kids) plus my escapes/passions (knitting/creating with my hands PLUS yoga, running, walking the dog) equals the need to be very attentive to my shoulder. I have a tendency to push on through, but I am learning to be gentler with my older self. It’s a humbling but ultimately healthy lesson. Glad you practiced it early. I will try to emulate your wisdom!

  • Haven’t been able to knit all week due to “shoulder ookiness.” Combination of knitting and holding device to play Animal Crossing Pocket Camp did me in. At least by not knitting and reducing handheld screen time, I am able to pretty much function otherwise. I am just hoping I’ll be good to go for knitting while I take some vacation time next week!

  • Oh man, it’s so hard to listen to my body though. I have a cranky elbow, and I have learned to do many things with my left hand (I am right handed, normally).
    I do ice it, and rub stuff into it, and baby it. I’ll even forgo washing the dishes, but I haven’t stopped knitting. Luckily I can make a little pillow nest and position it just so.
    I’m glad you’re feeling better. Having a body part that’s out of the game is not fun. I’m dying to hear what you did instead of knitting. Visualization? Other handed yarn petting? Did you have to knock yourself out with pain killers to get through it? Use a straight jacket? Knitters want to know.

  • Oh no! Been there recently. After some stressful days getting mom’s house ready to sell, we drove back home for two days. That is approx 12 hours of knitting to ‘relax’ sitting in a car. 2 days after arriving home it hit. Left shoulder and neck for me and still can’t raise my arm up all the way. My new friend is a chiropractor and shorter knitting sessions for me. My advice is Ice…..Ice Baby.

  • Sounds so familiar!! After struggles with knitters elbow (tennis elbow) carpel tunnel problems and neck issues, I was steered to this book and it is almost as good as having your own private physical therapist!
    Knitting Comfortably, the Ergonomics of knitting by Carson Demers. He is a PT and a knitter…very in-depth…he gets it, we don’t want to stop knitting!

  • This happened to me last January, when I probably had Covid-19 (before anybody was testing,) and went through three weeks of insane whole-body pain. Eventually, the pain and all of the other symptoms subsided, except for my right shoulder and upper arm. They felt like someone had hit me with a baseball bat! Diligent use of a TENS unit and some care about how I use my arm have helped a lot. My knitting has gotten more relaxed and I’m really grateful that was my only lingering problem. Be careful, Kay, and stay well!

  • Thanks for sharing this. I have been waking up with a tight shoulder and some wrist pain. After reading this post a couple of times, I took a couple of days off from knitting and things are feeling better. Your honesty may have saved me a much nastier fate. Thank you!

  • oh no!!! me too, right shoulder ~ i abstained for two days but apparently that wasn’t long enough so i’m back to not knitting. i really don’t know what to do with myself: idle hands feels extremely alien!!!

    • Lyn Zalk—I know exactly what you mean. Unfortunately for me, my idle hands tend to reach for chocolate. Yikes. I’m looking at ordering the book several folks have mentioned “Knitting Comfortably” . It’s pricey but might be worth it.

  • I hear you loud and clear. I have knitted myself into carpal tunnel and I am waiting for surgery! In the meantime I am dabbling in bobbin lace. It is a lot easier on my hands. My brains are going haywire trying to read the pattern with its in and outs and getting the pairs of threads in the right place. Keeping my hands completely still is not an option!