Artisan Crafts Week
A few months ago our dear Brookette
made a very interesting journal
sharing her experience with arthritic pain, and the changes she made to her crocheting tools. Pain and arthritis can be so intense that they can actually stop you from crafting (the nightmare
). I want to invite you to start taking care of your hands and your body now
, before you get irreparable damage. Don't wait until you start feeling pain
!! By that time the damage is done and all you can do is try to manage the pain. I wrote a few tips to help you, and I urge you to implement them as soon as possible.
Crafting is some serious business -it can be anything from crocheting a doily to welding car rims to create a 10 meter sculpture. Some things hold true to all of them, and I'll do my best to cover as much information as possible. And of course, remember that I'm no physician, so visit your doctor or reumatologist if you believe that you need professional help.
Have you experienced pain while crafting? What do you do to prevent damage? Please tell us your story, and share any tips that you may have.
1. Know what causes damage and pain
If you know what's bad for you, you can avoid it: poor posture, staying still for too long, keeping one position (imagine your hand like a claw), repetitive movements, and stress should be avoided. Lesions can also be craft-specific, like breathing on fumes and dust, chemical burns on your skin, or hearing loss from loud sounds. Ask someone who has practiced the same craft for advice, they may not want you to make the same mistakes.
2. Look for the early signs
Pay close attention to your body and don't ignore the early signs. It's never normal to feel pain in your back or shoulders, do something to change it (and I don't mean taking pain killers - FIX IT). Stiffness or numbness in your hands and articulations should be a warning, try to identify the cause and correct it. It doesn't matter if the signs appear while you craft or a day later, it's always important.
3. Mind your posture
Most of us sit down for hours, crouching down over a project or trying to observe something closer. Your mom told you this already, but I'll do it again: sit down straight on your chair, your shoulders against the back rest, and your feet down on the floor. Take frequent rests to walk around, go to the bathroom, sip some water, etc. I know it's easy to get lost in crafting for hours, so use an alarm if you have to. Try to use the best chair you have, and if your craft allows it try to move while crafting - for example, knit a few rows on the kitchen table in the morning, maybe knit a few more rows on the couch late at night while watching a movie, you get the idea.
Proper posture, people!
4. Upgrade your tools
A lot of work and damage can be avoided by making a few changes, and not all of them need to be expensive. Are you holding your fingers too close when you hold your favorite tool? You can probably extend the handle and give your hand more room. Is it leaving marks on your fingers? Wrap some tape or fabric to give it a softer grip. Observe your tools and try to imagine what kind of improvements you can do. Change your blades often, replace heavy tools with lighter versions, or finally make up your mind about getting that automated tool that you always wanted. Your future medical bill can be more expensive if you don't.
5. Change tasks often
Repetitive movements should be avoided like the plague. Sometimes you can't help it (sorry knitters and crocheters), but if your craft allows it - don't do something for too long. This is something that helped me tremendously, years ago I noticed that my hands started to feel numb at the end of my crafting sessions, and I realized that it was because I was doing a single thing for too long; Now I plan my workload ahead of time and texture a couple of slices of cake, then move to mixing some frosting, then work on a couple of roses, etc. Try to mix things up, it'll also keep you interested.
6. Exercise your hands and body
Warm up before starting, stretch your arms and your back and just enjoy pampering yourself for a few minutes. This is especially important if your craft involves physical strength (like building furniture or forging), make sure that you get your muscles and joints nice and warm before you begin. If you work on crafts that require precision, stretch your hands and shoulders often to avoid stiffness. I recently learned this tip, courtesy of NevaSirenda
, and I can't wait to test it.
I had a similar problem when I was doing calligraphy (it didn't help that it was in an unheated studio in upstate New York in the winter.) My doctor suggested I bake bread. The repeated kneading action helps keep the joints soft and limber without the pressure of a harder resistance like you get with the ball, plus the warmth and enzymes from the yeast works its way into the joints to keep the cartilage flexible. When I was doing art and calligraphy for three or four hours a day, I would bake bread once a week and it helped a lot. And nothing lifts my spirits like the smell of bread baking!
7. Find the support you needBrookette
found comfort in her compression gloves, and I can't tell you how much I love my wrist bracer.
Experiment and see what works best for you, there's a lot of possibilities: research different models, materials and levels of compression, and you can wear them while you craft or when you're done. My bracer holds my wrist aligned, so I use it when I need to make a lot of repetitive movements. My bracer is also made of neoprene, so I use it to keep my muscles warm and aligned after crafting: 30 minutes of wearing this, and I'm pain free the next day!
Thumbs up for my bracer!
I hope that this article will help you prevent damage, or manage it if you're already feeling some symptoms. Take as many tips as you want, and if you have more please share them with us! Remember to take care of yourself, so that you may have many long years of crafting.