Tis the season – knitting hand care

LInda Lencovic beginner's tips, work in progress

You know that sinking feeling you get when you put down your knitting needles and realise your hands and wrists are aching? And what about when you wake up the next morning and the pain is worse? EEK! Panic!

It is the season for hard-core knitting marathons as the holidays loom, so figured this post might help some of you feeling the aches and pains of long knitting sessions.

I am horrible at ignoring pain in my hands when creating … regularly spending more than 5 hours at a stretch knitting, and sometimes even up to 8 if I am rushing to finish something. If I am using lighter gauges like lace or fingering it isn’t a huge problem, but as soon as I cast on anything thicker my wrists start to protest pretty quickly.

I realised a year ago that if I want to continue knitting something needed to happen. Either I needed to cut back on how much I was knitting or I needed to find a way to take care of my hands so that I could continue. I decided the latter was the first port of call – cutting back on knitting would naturally be the last resort!



Years ago in my twenties I had some serious troubles with my wrists from the office day job and was diagnosed with De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. At the time I was given a series of stretches by my physiotherapist which seemed to help. As the knitting pains were somewhat similar, I figured I would start there but also try to target the sharp pain I was getting in the joint below my middle finger and in the fleshy bit between my index and thumb.

I did a bit of research and came across some articles on stretches specifically for knitting.

I printed out these diagrams of stretches and exercises at Knitting Daily and have been doing a variation on these every morning when I wake up and through the day as I need it which really seems to help:

IMAGE © Knitting Daily

IMAGE © Knitting Daily

I find the wrist down stretch, top left,  particularly helpful for stretching the tight muscles on the top forearm for the middle finger pain.

I’ve added in this great thumb stretch from Knit Freedom (no. 4) to the routine, which targets the fleshy muscle by my thumb nicely.

I’ve also taken to spreading my fingers as wide as I can and making piano-playing-like motions with the fingers stretched as far out as I can get them…try it – it feels amazing after a little too long on the needles!

Remember to breathe deeply from the gut and gently do each stretch for 30 seconds each at a time to let the lactic acid work its way out of your muscles.

If you are feeling really sharp pains STOP KNITTING. Ice, ibuprofen and rest are the best medicine, but do the stretches gently throughout the day and you’ll be surprised at how much quicker your hands and wrists recover.

Remember, your hands are mostly muscles with tendons and all muscles need stretching, warming up and rest to stay healthy. Tendons don’t get very much blood flow so healing is very slow if the damage is to this part of the hand. Pay close attention to your hands while you knit and change yarn weights and rest often to give them the variety and breaks they need to stay healthy!

Happy holiday knitting all… and knit safe people. ;-P