Knitting and I have a long history which I have detailed on this here blog before. It is truly one of my great passions in life and I cannot imagine my life or myself without those two sticks and yarn. Knitting has forever changed my concept of myself, my abilities, and the way I think about practice and mastery. It has taught me patience, perseverance, and what pure contentment looks like.
But it has also caused me pain. A lot of it.
Some of it has been more mental anguish than anything- the distinct anger that comes from realizing I made a mistake several rows back, the frustration at having too many or too few stitches at the end of a row, the boredom that I sometimes feel if I've been working on a really easy project for too long.
But then there is physical pain. Unfortunately I am not a stranger to it. In my younger years (because 28 is so old lolol), I would knit for hours and hours at a time, paying no mind to the dull soreness in my forearms or the sensation of needing to pop my knuckles. I'd fly through projects big and small and ignored any pain. I never experienced lasting pain after knitting, so I figured it was all ok. I'm afraid that it's now caught up with me. I've written here before about pain from crafting, specifically knitting, and how it has caused me to take longer breaks from it.
For several months now, I have had a never-ending bout of pain, specifically in my right elbow, forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers. It was dull enough most of the time that I continued to do all the things that aggravated it- knitting, scrolling through Buzzfeed for way too long, flicking through Instagram (y'all know I love Insta). For months I suffered through. Then it got to the point where knitting even 1 stitch was causing immediate pain. And then it got to the point where French braiding my hair, brushing my teeth, applying makeup, and just generally using my right hand caused sharp pain.
Just thinking about it now and typing it up makes me feel emotional because I ignored the pain and am now suffering from the consequences. I wish I had paid attention to it and honored it.
Finally, I decided I needed to see a specialist. I first went to my orthopedist who has treated me for various ailments since I was 14. She was very unhelpful (which is not usually the experience I have with her) and I left her office feeling discouraged. But it got me to take a break for a little bit from knitting and I was feeling slightly better.
A few weeks went by and the pain was still there, even without the knitting. My forearm muscles were constantly tense and I could not get them to relax. I got a massage and the massage therapist told me at the end of the massage that my right forearm was so incredibly tight and that there was a distinct difference between it and my left arm. This wasn't getting any better and I was getting sad about not knitting.
I decided to see a hand specialist. This guy does a lot of work with elbows as well, so I figured he was a good bet. I saw him and he was super understanding and sympathetic. He told me that I had a textbook case of radial tunnel syndrome and that a cortisone shot would be my best bet. I got the shot and was sent home in a brace that I am now required to sleep in. The day I got the shot and the next few days my arm hurt even worse than it had been, which I was told was to be expected. The third day after the shot, all of a sudden, my arm just felt NORMAL. Like totally pain free and not tense at all. I couldn't believe it. I had forgotten what it felt like to not even think about my arm and how it was feeling. It was SO encouraging.
I gave it a few more days and picked up the needles that I had abandoned 3 months prior. It felt so good to have some needles and wool back in my hands. I am taking it super slowly and easy though because I am still having some soreness when I do too much. The brace has helped so much and my arm is now able to relax. I am far from 100% but there is at least some light shining through now. I have my good days and bad days- some days my arm feels totally normal and then I do too much and the next couple of days it is sore. In addition to cutting way back on the amount of knitting I do these days, I am more mindful of ergonomics. Yes, that boring but necessary topic. I am less likely to use my laptop on my lap these days and instead prefer to put it on a table. I try to stay off my phone as much as possible and limit my time on the computer as well since swiping and scrolling aggravate the same muscles that knitting does. It's been a huge adjustment for sure and it has made me realize just how much of my identity is wrapped up in knitting.
So many of my thoughts are consumed by knitting- memories of days of the past when I would curl up on the couch with a project, of hours (sometimes in the middle of the night) whiled away on Ravelry and favoriting patterns, of the way knitting provides the ultimate contentment on a rainy day, of knitting on a fall or winter Sunday evening with candles glowing, of the trips I desperately want to take to Ireland and New Zealand where I would visit sheep farms and be steeped in the knitting culture there, of projects lovingly knit for others and how creating something for someone is the ultimate act of love and peace- and I want to make sure I can continue doing it for a very, very long time.
So this, my friends, is a gentle warning to both you and to me- don't ignore pain. It is there for a reason. And certainly don't ignore it if it is interfering with one of the greatest passions of your life. It is not worth it. Honor those hands.