My biggest stumbling block to all of my hobbies is tendinitis in my arms. It flares up when I type on the computer for too long or make other repetitive motions especially minute motions with my hands and fingers. So pretty much everything I enjoy doing; knitting, cello, and worst of all WORK.
It started about 2-3 years ago. If I knit for a several hours in a row (seriously, how long do you think projects take!?) my wrists and forearms would feel a little sore. I bought little arm braces from the pharmacy section and moved on.
Then my pinkie fingers started to fall asleep when I was sleeping. It was weird and kind of painful. I was worried about carpel tunnel syndrome or nerve damage, so I got checked out by my doctor. Slight pinched nerve in the one that runs from my pinkie to elbow, but mostly a further result from tendinitis.
Enter in, prescription arm braces. They are fancy. I know sleep in them most nights.
These little guys have Velcro to adjust the tension and no hard pinchy spots. And yes, they are also now covered in dog fur.
And they aren’t always enough.
They are a little shorter than I would like- It would be super nice to have braces that cover my full forearm.Sometimes my arms and wrists hurt so bad, I have to just hold them to keep pressure on. Sometimes I will wrap my arms in ace bandages and then add the braces on top. Sometimes I get massages and have the masseuse rub my arms.
Baoding balls or Chinese Meditation balls are amazing for a little mini hand massage!
I also do stretches! Apparently video gaming can also aggravate those same tendons, so I picked up a few neat stretches that gamers use + what my doctor suggested. My favorite are called spider push ups. To do them place your hands together, fingertips touching. Bunch all the fingers together, so your palms are away from each other. Then spread your fingers out, palms can touch again here.
My work very kindly allowed me to get a standing desk and fancy ergonomic “wavy” keyboard. Having good posture throughout your whole body is important, even though my hands are showing the symptoms, keeping the rest of me in line has been a game changer. (Apparently all those muscles and things are connected. Who knew?)
When knitting specifically hurts my hands and arms, I will change up my method. For those of you versed in knitting lingo, I’m a “thrower”or typically use the English method. In this method of knitting, the piece is held with the left hand and the right hand does most or all of the moving. It is one of the slower methods and the most intensive on your hands (especially the right). I use it by default because it was how I learned and worked unencumbered for about 20 years. My gauge is predictable. I have complete control over complex stitches. This method is still faster for me, personally, with all the practice I have going in. I clocked myself this weekend at 25 stitches a minute. The fastest knitter in the world reportedly does 95 stitches per minute. More on that later.
When the arms start to hurt and I’m on a deadline, I don’t always want to stop knitting. So I’ll switch to the Continental or “picking” method. This puts more burden on my left hand and allows the right to rest a bit. Still need to work after that? I’ll switch to Portuguese knitting or “flicking” (my slang term). I’ll also get creative with how I hold the needles. In Cello, your bow hand (right) has to be loose. You align your knuckles with the direction of the bow and barely hold onto it. When I knit, sometimes (a lot…) I grab those needles like they are a railing at the edge of a cliff and I need to hold on for dear life. I can feel the stress radiating up my arm. But if I hold the needles like a bow, the stress fades away and I can keep working. There are even more knitting methods out there and every knitter also has their own unique style, there’s plenty of alterations available to keep changing it up!
With all the modifications to my work and home life, habits, etc. I have a lot more good days than bad days. However… There are times when it gets bad and stays bad for longer periods of time. What then?
Then I take a break from all my activities for up to weeks at a time. I miss making beautiful things, but I’ve found that mindset matters when going into a deliberate period of rest. I Maybe you’ve heard of fasting before- maybe you think of Lent and not eating meat other than fish. If I’ve worked so much with my hands that I’m in pain, I will do a fast from those activities. Rather than longing for what I can’t do, I will spend that time deliberately doing other things like reading novels, my Bible, or visiting with friends. Then in 2 or 3 weeks when I pick it back up, life feels much more balanced.
If I’ve just finished a project, I will take a few days before starting another one. If God rested after creating the earth, I give myself permission to, too.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands. -Psalm 90:17 (NIV)
What about you?
What obstacles have you had to overcome in pursuit of your passion?
When/ how do you rest?