The Pain of Not Knitting

Back in February I was ordered off knitting because of pain in my shoulder.

Well folks, it’s happened again.

All that Election Day (and Election Week!) stress knitting took its toll.

Early Twinges

I was already starting to feel some twinges when I finished the Bear’s Flax Lite sweater (it’s now blocked and BEAUTIFUL!), but the flurry of knitting I started on Election Day seems to have been too much.

I don’t feel the pain while I’m knitting. That’s the problem. It’s once I stop that I feel an ache in my shoulder and pain just above my elbow.

It gets to the point where my shoulder and the spot above my elbow become sensitive to the touch, and the whole area is generally achey and uncomfortable.

Physical Therapy

Before the pandemic hit, I did consult a physical therapist at a practice that is supposed to specialize in hand, arm and shoulder care. However, I was disappointed that the therapists didn’t ask to watch me knit, to see what movement I was doing, or observe my posture while I knitted. As a result, they weren’t able to pinpoint the source or cause of my pain.

I went frequently and did the exercises they gave me, but with very limited success in managing my discomfort. When the pandemic hit, I dropped my visits altogether.

More Knitting = More Pain

In periods of less knitting activity, when I’m picking something up and only working on it occasionally, this isn’t really a problem.

But when I’m working on a project I really like, or am trying to finish something by a certain date, I tend to knit more. That’s when the pain and discomfort flare up.

Feeling Deprived

Everything I’ve read says that one of the biggest mental health benefits of crafting is the sense of purpose, the objective you have to work towards. Whether it’s a hat, a sweater or some baby booties, you have delayed gratification while you work towards the final product, and the anticipation of enjoyment once it’s done.

Right now, that feeling of having a goal to work towards is huge for me. With life in limbo due to the global pandemic and my career/job prospects on hold for the time being, knitting has been a beneficial creative outlet.

And now I cannot knit. As I wrote back in February, my productivity and motivation are low, and I feel very little sense of purpose.

That’s not to say that being able to knit solves all problems, but it certainly helps.

Fearful of My Needles

Also upsetting is the apprehension and worry I feel about picking up the needles again once my arm feels better. Will I just hurt myself again? Why am I doing this so wrong that it hurts?

There’s definitely anxiety there.

Looking For Solutions

And so, I have ordered Knitting Comfortably, the Ergonomics of Hand Knitting by Carson Demers, a physical therapist and knitter based in San Francisco.

I learned about him on the Fruity Knitting podcast, and I am hoping that his book will help me answer some of these questions. I’ve also reached out to contact him and ask if he knows any physical therapists in this area that he could recommend. It’s a long shot, but there’s no harm in asking.

Here’s hoping that with rest, icing, warming, massage and then with the help of this book, I can get back to knitting without worrying about injury.


The Brain In Jane works mainly in the rain. It's always raining somewhere. Find me on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

3 thoughts to “The Pain of Not Knitting”

  1. I’m sorry your knitting has been causing you pain! I hope that the book is helpful; I’ve been thinking about ordering it myself but haven’t actually done it yet. I’d love to hear what you think about it when you get it! In the meantime, I know you usually knit English (so do I), but have you tried knitting continental? I figured out how to knit continental on my own when I was in the middle of a long stockinette project and was worried about the repetitive motion causing me discomfort in my wrist or elbow. I’m nowhere near as fast with continental as I am with English, because it’s not as automatic for me, but I found that if I knit that way for a little bit, it’s enough of a change to let my right arm rest/heal, and then I can go back to knitting my usual way. And it allows me to still knit in the meantime!

    1. I have tried knitting continental! I can do it for fair isle when I’ve got a color going in each hand. The trouble I have is with purling continental. I’m not very good at it. If I’m doing stockinette in the round, that’s fine. The only issue is how it affects my gauge. I think I knit more loosely knitting continental, so if I switch between continental and English in a project I might throw my gauge off. Have you found you can maintain the same gauge continental style?

      I will let you know how the book is!! It’s on its way and I am very excited.

  2. Oh yeah, I have not figured out purling continental either. I’m sure I could watch some videos or something, but where knitting continental was easy to teach myself, I could not wrap my brain around purling continental. So yeah, I’ve only done continental when I was knitting a lot of stockinette in the round. I’m honestly not sure if my gauge changes or not, but I think if it does change, it’s not a super noticeable change.

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