Thursday, August 24, 2006

Writing and knitting: therapy or health hazards?

I’ve always considered both writing and knitting therapy and figure they've saved me from many expensive hours on a psychiatrist’s couch. Recently, however, I’ve discovered that there is a down side to both occupations and now I’m in a different kind of therapy: physical therapy.

About a month and a half ago, I started having a strange sort of electric shooting pain in my left arm. It got to the point where I couldn’t sit through a meal without hanging my arm awkwardly over the back of a chair or bending it up over my head and back behind my neck. I was pretty sure I wasn’t having a heart attack (thank goodness!) but eating out in public became problematic and it was quite unpleasant even between meal times.

My doctor sent me to a chiropractor/physical therapist who diagnosed it as an impingement in a couple of vertebrae in my upper neck. Since then I’ve had electricity zapped through me, ultrasound vibrated up and down my neck, massages and magnets and even traction. I also do exercises with an elastic band and weights and a large rubber ball.

The culprit? Bad posture when I’m working at the word processor and on the knitting needles. Slouching, even for brief periods of time, transfers all the weight of the head onto just a few vertebrae which aren’t really meant to support it alone. They squash something with a long technical name and it sends a warning signal down the arm.

The solution? Be aware of how you're sitting and get up regularly to do stretches and move around.

Fortunately, all these wonders of modern technology have banished the pain in my arm and now I just have some residual tightness in my neck.

So when your mother told you to “sit up straight!”, she knew what she was talking about.

Has anyone else encountered a similar problem? How have you conquered it?


Blogger Michelle Gregory said...

I know what you mean. All I can say is I try to use better posture and I get massage therapy every two weeks.

10:43 AM  
Blogger LauraP said...

It's an ongoing challenge. I take frequent breaks, stretch a lot, and am becoming resigned to the need to find a good massage therapist near here. (Makes more sense than driving 150 miles to the Goddess Torture Queen who used to keep me in shape.)

10:49 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

I like the idea of getting massage therapy every two weeks. That's combining practicality with pleasure.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Barbara Bretton said...

I get what I call Knitter's Elbow. When I've been hitting the needles too much, pain starts in my right elbow and (if I don't put down the work and rest) moves up my arm to my shoulder and back. Repetitive motion will kill you if you let it.

I have arthritis in both hands so some of my range of motion is limited. I've discovered that circular needles put much less stress on my hands than straight needles. I also find that purling hurts; knitting doesn't.

Go figure!

11:04 AM  
Blogger Barbara Bretton said...

A writerly PS: I broke my right hand in 1990 which isn't that big a deal but I ended up with ridiculous complications that basically made it impossible for me to do needleworks for almost 13 years. (Long story and I promise I'll spare you.) I would've been up the creek computer-wise too but a switch from desktop to laptop saved my life and career. The laptop is portable therefore I can change position, fine-tune the angle, make it accommodate itself to me rather than the other way around. Cutting myself free from desk and chair was (for me) the best thing I ever did.

Nancy, maybe you can alternate between desktop and laptop?

11:12 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

That's a great idea, Barbara! And it gives me a good excuse to finally buy a laptop that isn't from the prehistoric era.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous jamiedenton1 said...

Nancy - Hugs on the owies. It's not fair that things that can bring us such joy can also cause so much agony if we're not careful. I constantly have to remind myself to sit up straight. In my mind I can almost hear mean ol' Miss Penfield, a very strict gym teacher from my jr. high school days lecturing on posture, posture, posture!

12:15 PM  
Blogger wavybrains said...

Last year, I learned to knit like a mad woman and took on NaNoWriMO (Novel in a month) in the same six week span. OW. OW. Tendonitis. Lots of massage, stretching, exercises. I got a stand and separate keyboard for the laptop, learned to switch knitting projects often (big needles, small needles, big needles), and knock on wood have not had a flare in a while.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

Wavybrains (BTW, I love that screen name), your switching needles idea is a good one. I'll definitely keep that in mind for future knitting.

I have an ergonomic keyboard on a stand separate from my desk so I can shift it around and change the angle. That definitely helps. I also wear a wrist brace on my right, mousing wrist to ward off my chronic tennis elbow (haven't played tennis in four years but I still have the injury).

Gosh, I'm a wreck, aren't I?

4:02 PM  

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