Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hand pain from knitting

After a few marathon knitting sessions earlier this year, I noticed that my right hand really hurt. I thought that it was caused by the knitting so I did some research online to see if this was normal. I did find some posts about pain while knitting (such as this one) so I decided to share what I had learned from this experience.

Hand pain

The pain that I had was on my right hand between my thumb and index finger. It felt like a tendon was on fire every time that I opened my hand or moved those fingers. The pain shot down those fingers and my hand tended to cramp up. My hand was burning it hurt so much and I couldn't use it even to do everyday stuff like typing on the computer or cooking.


I went to the doctor and she said that it was the beginning stages of tendonitis in my thumb. She said that it was caused by me having my hand in a particular position for an extended period of time. If I kept it up doing marathon knitting sessions then I would end up with carpel tunnel syndrome.


This is the treatment that I did for one week:
  • I wore a long bandage around my hand and I couldn't move it. This bandage forced me not to move it because I did try and do regular things. 
  • Every day, I iced my hand twice with a bag of peas for about 30-45 minutes. This really did help.
  • I didn't move my right hand to do anything, even regular things like typing, opening doors, etc. I really had to let it rest for one week. Of course, this means that I stopped knitting. I couldn't write either.
  • I took Advil whenever I felt pain which was only for the first three to four days. No more than 3 per day!
After the one week:
  • I removed the bandage. 
  • I gradually added everyday things like opening doors, typing and cutting vegetables. If my hand hurt while I did it, I switched hands. 
  • I iced my hand once a day (if I needed it). The icing really helped. 
  • I did hand exercises from this website and this one twice per day. I also massaged the area between my thumb and index finger.
 After two weeks:
  • I slowly started to get my hand used to normal everyday things like typing, cutting vegetables, etc. I found writing particularly difficult so I avoided writing for an hour straight. After about 10 minutes, I did a few hand exercises to avoid keeping my hand in the same position for an extended period of time.
  • I continued doing hand exercises.
After one month:
  • After any activity that used my right hand, I did a few hand exercises to keep my hand moving. 
  • I started knitting again but only for 30 minutes at a time.In those 30 minutes, I found myself doing a hand exercise every 20 minutes or so. 
  • I listen to the pain. If my hand started to get tight or hurt, I stopped, did some hand exercises and did something else.
  • I learned not to have marathon knitting sessions (4-5 hours straight or more). 
  • I knit for 30 minutes at a time, twice a day on the bus. 
  • I keep my hand moving instead of keeping it in one position for a long period of time. 
  • I still do hand exercises whenever I feel like my hand is cramping up. 
  • I changed my knitting needles. I noticed that I pulled the stitches more with a bamboo circular with a rubber connector cord than a thinner, plastic connector cord. So, I got rid of all of my circulars with rubber cords. 
  • If I sit down in the evening to knit a blanket, I do between 4 to 6 rows (depending on how long it takes to do a row) then I stop. This is between 30-45 minutes at a time. I know that it will take me longer to finish bigger projects, but I do not want to return to the pain that I had. 
  • I train my hand to take more. I could only do two rows on a blanket at a time before my hand started to cramp up so I stopped. Then I trained it to do three, four rows. I listened to the pain in my hand and stopped but that doesn't mean that I will never knit again.
Other activities that activated this hand pain

I also had the misfortune of noticing that after I had this hand pain, sometimes other activities that taxed my hand gave me some hand pain. You may notice this too:
  • Using scissors for cutting anything, especially if the thing being cut is thick
  • Using a one-hole hole punch
  • Writing for extended periods of time
  • Opening a difficult door with my hand around the door knob
  • Pulling on a large rope with my right hand
  • Picking up heavy bags with my right hand
  • Using a mouse on a desktop computer for an extended period of time


  1. I had a similar experience when I started knitting. Thankfully, it was not as extreme as your pain. I called it my knitting injury. I taught myself to knit continental style carrying the yarn on my left hand instead of throwing it with my right. The pain has never returned.

  2. Thank you for this post. I also had a similar experience when I first started knitting. Since I am in New York I went to Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists where they performed an MRI. Needless to say, the damage was done, and not just from knitting.

  3. Oh that's sad. I posted my experience because as soon as I got the pain I stopped for awhile and then restarted. I wanted to write about my experience so that others could learn from it and not have carpel tunnel or other issues down the road. Knitting is enjoyable but it can really hurt your hands after awhile. Thanks for your support!

  4. Thank you for this post. I've been having the pain for a few months now, and its so bad today it even hurts to type. I'm going to try your advice, so thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. KEep up the good work. This article was very helpful in answering alot of questions.Thanks for posting.

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