Knitting Pain and Hand Stiffness – Stretches to Relieve Pain

by Liat Gat

If you are like most knitters, you were probably up late this Christmas Eve, knitting.

Also like most knitters, you may have woken up with knitting pain in your hands, fingers, and joints.

Any flagrant overuse of your joints can lead to stiffness and leave you susceptible to more chronic knitting injuries.

I asked a certified massage therapist what knitters can do to get some relief from knitting pain.

Tight Muscle Fascia Prevents Joints From Healing

The therapist explained to me that muscle fascia is the “bag” of dense connective tissue that surrounds your muscles and joints, kind of like plastic wrap.

Fasciae made of collagen and are connective in nature, like tendons and ligaments, except that fasciae connect muscles to other muscles.

If the fascia is tight around your muscles, all the stretching or massage in the world can only provide limited relief, because the muscles don’t have room to move.

The good this is there is an easy way to fix this, and it works, feels good (after you’re done), you can do it by yourself, and it doesn’t take very long.

Just do a series of fascia stretches on yourself. This is called myofascial release, and it’s a form of massage therapy developed in the 1920’s.

After you stretch your forearm fasciae, you can stretch the muscles of the wrist, hands, and fingers and experience a lot of relief from knitting pain next time you go to knit.

Grasp, “Lock,” and Push To Stretch Muscle Fascia Correctly

  • Make sure you don’t have on any hand lotion that might make your arm slippery.
    Unlike most massage techniques, you want the skin to “grab,” not slide.

Grasp your left forearm with your right hand. Squeeze just tight enough to prevent your skin from slipping, and push down towards your wrist.

Note: If your right hand is too sore or weak to get a good grip, you can stabilize your left forearm between your legs (still hold onto the fascia with your right hand) and pull your left arm towards you.

Maintaining your hand grip, now push your hand towards your elbow. Your skin (and fascia) will move, about an inch. That’s how much room your fascia have.

That’s what we want to expand.

Perform This Sequence of Fascia Stretches to Relieve Knitting Pain

1) Forearm Stretch. Work down your forearm (just a few places will do), holding each stretch for 90 seconds.

I like to do this while standing in front of the microwave, waiting for my tea to heat up.

2) Wrist Stretch. Make sure to keep your elbow straight (this is like keeping your knees straight for a hamstring stretch).

3) Milk the Fingers. Grasp, lock, and push down each finger, stretching the fasciae.

4) Stretch the Thumb and Hand. This one feels sooo good.

5) Stretch Your Pinky.

You can do one whole arm then repeat, or alternate each step.

Either way, your hands are going to instantly feel better.

Timesaving Tips

  • If you don’t have much time, just do the myofascial stretches on your forearms from step 1. These alone will provide very fast relief.
  • Do these stretches in the bathroom, in front of the microwave, or in line at the store.

Author Liat Gat is an expert video knitting instructor and founder of the website KNITFreedom. Click to see the article on KNITFreedom with photographs showing the different stretches to relieve knitting pain. A personal note: I’ve been using these stretches all week, and I love them! Leave a note in the comments if you find anything that has worked for you.

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  1. i am usually quilting but working to improve my knitting. I do stretches all the time foe my hands, these are great

  2. Hello, this sounds really interesting and might be straightforward to follow for most people but personally I would need a video demonstration to ensure that I am doing thsi properly and it has a soothing effect.
    Claudie Henault.

  3. I agree with Claudie Henault, the written descriptions for the exercises are not very clear. If not a brief video, perhaps individual still shots of the exercises would explain them better. However, I do press my fingers against the inside palm of the opposite hand for a good stretch and always wash my dishes by hand. The warm water relieves the stiffness. And by all means, keep those fingers moving! Knitting and/or crocheting is a great exercise by itself!

  4. I’m sure this would be very helpful but I just can’t visualize how to do the exercises. Pictures or diagrams would be much more helpful.

  5. Unfortunately I have got a pinched nerve in my neck,which effects my whole left arm and is extremely painful, due to constantly knitting intricate patterns,which involves bending my head over for long periods of time,now I have to wait probably several weeks before I can resume my knitting,very frustrating,but it has taught me a lesson that I must not sit hour after hour constantly knitting non stop.
    I don’t really know how long to keep knitting before giving it a break,perhaps someone could advise me on this.

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