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Repetitive Strain Injury

kerync | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi, I am new to this, but I do a lot of sewing, needlecrafts and knitting. I have a

question. I have developed RSI in my right arm and am having trouble participating in

the hobbies I enjoy. Has anybody else had this problem and have they found a way

to continue doing what they love? I would love to here your experiences.



  1. zuwena | | #1

    Haven't had developed your problem yet but I just noticed a developing arthritis in my thumb joint since doing haute couture, which involves a lot of hand sewing.  With the RPI you might want to check your posture and the position of the machine when sewing as it might be factoring in to straining muscles or tendons.  Check with your doctor soon so that if you need some kind of supportive device you can get it soon to avoid worsening of the condition.  Good luck.  Z

    1. kerync | | #2

      Thankyou for your reply. I am waiting for a therapeutic support glove to come in the mail next week. Shall let you know if it helps.

  2. From my Stash.... | | #3

    I'm sorry to hear that you have RSI. Your other respondent is right.The support will help, but you still have to be very careful.

    Although I don't have RSI, I do recognize when my right hand, wrist and shoulders start to be affected by my activities since i knit, crochet, make jewellry (making those chains is a real killer on my hands) and sew as well as spend a significant time in front of a computer.

     These are the ergonomic things that we all need to think about:

    * stop doing what you are doing for 10 minutes every hour and gently stretch. this is probably the hardest thing to do when you are caught up in a project, but it is vital, especially with the knitting since there is no way we can really change the basic motions.  You will probably need to take a lot more breaks every hour since you've already got RSI and maybe cut back on the number and duration of working on your projects.

    *your sewing machine, cutting surface and ironing board/prssing station have to be at the correct height. If they are at the wrong height, you will be reaching up or down while you are working and you will soon feel muscle tension in your hands, wrists, shoulders, and back as your body strains to help you work.

    For your knitting, you might want to be conscious that you are keeping your wrists straight rather than bent which makes really is bad for RSI, and your elbows bent at 90 degrees. (and this is so much harder to do than it is to describe).

    * your posture - do you sit with your feet planted on the floor with a 90 degree bend at the knee and the hips. I know that I have to watch that I am sitting upright with my spine over my hips and not leaning forward or backward. which leads me to your chair...

    *The chair height has to be right to help you keep your feet on the floor and to provide the right amount of back support in the lower back.

    * set-up of your sewing/knitting area. Are the things you need frequently easily within arms-length reach or are you stretching/twisting  constantly to get them?

    Sorry that this short list has just gotten away from me, but as you've found out, RSI is no fun to have and the ergonomic set up of our crafting areas is vital to our enjoying our crafts.

    Hope you have success with the support and continue with your activities.


  3. MaryinColorado | | #4

    I had to give up alot of my activities temporarily to "rest" my hands due to arthritis and injuries.  Now I find that heat helps a great deal.  I use a heated wax spa and dip my hands up to eight times, then wrap them in the plastic bags and mittens that came with it.  It is like a miracle!  While watching tv, I use the heating pad.  Warm water exercise and playing with soft clay might also help.  This may sound crazy, but it works and I believe, saved me from needing surgery.   Good luck on your recovery and be patient.  Mary 

    1. fabricholic | | #5

      Hi Mary,Do you think the wax spa would help arthritis in my hands? I key all day at work and I am noticing old Arthur creeping in my fingers and my thumb joints, also. Some of the women here have it pretty bad. When I key for a long time, I have to stop, because it achs so bad. This is not only going to affect my hobbies, but my job.Marcy

      1. MaryinColorado | | #6

        I had to give up my career as a nurse, thanks to Arthur!  I had severe pain and stiff joints, especially in my thumbs.  Nothing helped until my daughter in law told me her physical therapist used this with good results.  It has been a true God-send for me as I couldn't do much of anything for a long time.  Talk about major depression!  I felt so worthless going from extremely active to nonfunctional. 

        I have the Remington wax spa but I think they are all similar.  Ulta, drug stores, and discount stores sell them.  I found lavendar scented wax that is also great aromatherapy.  I think the trick is to dip hands, wait till the wax firms a bit, dip again about eight times total, then wrap and put on the mits.  It is time consuming but more affective than any thing else I have tried.  You can also use the brush and apply it to elbows and knees with less results than dipping.

        Too bad I can't fill up a tub with the warm wax and dip my whole body!!!  lol 

        Hope this helps.  Mary

        1. fabricholic | | #7

          Hi Mary,Thanks for the info. I didn't mean I have depression from arthritis. It's good to know that I could put it on my knee. I think I need a wax bath, also. What are you serging?Marcy

  4. midnitesewer | | #8

    Sue Hausmann did two episodes of her show, America Sews with Sue Hausmann, on ergonomics and sewing, cutting, ironing, and knitting. She had a physical therapist or doctor as her guest.  They discussed proper posture, table heights, strecthing, taking rest breaks, etc. They also demonstrated some devices to relieve muscle strain and mantain proper posture. I think that I saw them both last year. Check her website for tips and the videos. I hope that this helps.

  5. mem | | #9

    I have a professionl interest in these injuries . Where are you having pain and what are you doing when the pain starts ?. If you stop doing the aggravating activity how long does it take for the pain to die down ?

    The reason all of these questions are important is that you may be having rerred painand that is important in that you may be "treating " the wrong area .Lastly how old are you ??

    1. kerync | | #10


      I am 47years old. I have pain in my shoulder from bursitis and in my elbow. The pain in my elbow is mainly in the inside of the elbow and my wrist feels weak and aches.

      At the moment the pain is constant but is worse after doing ironing, cross-stitch,cutting with scissors, using mouse, and scrubbing sinks, etc.

      1. woodruff | | #11

        Over the years, I have had a number of the same symptoms you have. At times, they have been disabling enough that I had to give up stuff I adore. However, since then, I have discovered a marvelous physical therapist. These people are angels and geniuses.I cannot recommend strongly enough that you see a doctor and ask for a referral to a physical therapist. Oh, and do not be afraid of the occasional cortisone shot. A well-placed, well-timed shot like this can give amazing relief--and the physical therapist can teach you ways to avoid having the problem come back.

        1. kerync | | #12

          Thankyou for your reply. I have had one cortisone injection in the elbow and it fixed it for about 5 weeks. I also have some wrist exercises that the physiotherapist gave me to do. I think I get impatient and don't rest it enough.  


          1. Teaf5 | | #13

            I agree that medical attention is important with any ache or pain; most company health plans are eager to have you visit your own or an on-site physician to prevent injuries that will affect your ability to do your job!

            That said, posture and ergonomics (how you use your body to work) are also extremely important.  A better office chair can help not only your back but also your wrists by putting you in a more erect position and a more accurate elbow position.

            Wrist guards (like those used for rollerblading) make great splints that keep your wrist straight and your fingers free.  When I've strained my wrist, I take the rigid plastic out and wear the velcroed fabric for my everyday tasks.

            Piano practice, and learning to hold my hands correctly for it, has really helped me avoid keyboarding stress.  My teacher insisted that I sit up straight and pretend to "hold an apple in my palm" every time I touched the keys.  I still do that, even on the computer.  Specialized computer keyboards & wrist supports help, too.

            Learn to do some tasks with your opposite hand.  I recently learned continental style knitting because it uses the left hand more than the right.  After a serious right shoulder injury long ago, I learned that I can do a lot of things with my left hand if I'm just a bit more patient, and that reserves my right hand for fun actions.

            And when I feel achey, I take it as a sign I need to do something else, so I sit down and read about sewing or crafting!

          2. MaryinColorado | | #14

            Something else that has been helpful for me is weight lifting gloves from the sporting goods store.  I found a wonderful clerk who opened many boxes for me until we found just the perfect pair.  These come with the fingers cut off the ends and much padding and support built in which is a huge improvement over what was available in the past. 

            I also use driving gloves whenever there is a chill in the air as the cold increases the pain.  They are also great for holding my labrador's leash.  I couldn't walk the dog until the vet told me about "haltie" collars that control the dogs head.  Now we are spending wonderful time walking together most days.  He seems to know when it is time for our walk and gets quite insistant  which motivates me.  This has been a real blessing for me.  I was always patient with others, now I am learning to be patient with myself and appreciate the things I can do.

            I am finally discovering that  there are many simple ways of changing "disabled" into "able".   Thank You for many suggestions that you have mentioned in several posts here.  There are so many ways to make other people's lives better, just thought you would like to know that you have helped me.  Mary

          3. zuwena | | #16


            Could you tell me more about "continental knitting".  I am also a knitter and I have bouts of RSI so I would be interested in strengthening my left hand with an activity that I like.  Thanks.  Z

          4. woodruff | | #17

            Amy Finlay has a website with videos (!) showing how to knit this way (and other ways). Here, I hope, is a link to her Continental video. Just click on the little camera symbol for the video. I think there's one more link you have to click on to get it to play. http://www.knittinghelp.com/knitting/basic_techniques/knit.phpAnother page shows you various ways to cast on, but the link above is a good demo of Continental technique.This is a wonderful site both for people teaching themselves to knit and for those wanting to see more advanced techniques.

          5. zuwena | | #18

            Thank you so much.  I reviewed the site.  Would you believe--I've been "continental" knitting for years but did not know it.  It was the way I was taught only it was never labelled.   I enjoyed looking at all the videos.  Thanks again. Z

          6. Teaf5 | | #19

            Someone else has already sent a good website, so I won't duplicate that. Most of the new knitting books on the market also include the continental style, which involves the left hand more and relies on "digging" rather than "throwing," as one author put it. I also like it because it's closer to crocheting (my first craft) and because I always lose the needle when I let go to throw the yarn in the American style.

      2. mem | | #15

        It sounds to me as if you have an inflammatory problem . Perhaps supraspinatus tendonitis and flexor tendonitis ( golfers Elbow). I see people like you all the time . I would suggest that you start off dealing with the inflammatory component with simple things like using an ice pack for about 20 mins over the shoulder and also on the inside elbow . Dry your skin and then apply an anti inflammatory gel I use Feldene or Voltaren gel  . Do this 4 times per day and you may find that wearing a tennis elbow strap around the upper forearm will help when you are using your wrist and hand . I would continue with this treatment regime for a week or so and then start to reduce the number of applications and see what happens . Once the inflammation has reduced you can start to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and elbow wrist . I use rubber bands which are used to offer graded resistance . Most people do get better but it can take around 6 weeks . If all else fails a cortisone injection followed by a short period of rest and then strengthening will help.For your shoulder  you need to keep your elbow BELOW shoulder level as if its at or above this level you will be irritating the inflamed tendon.  Hope that helps a bit.

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