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Sales Consultant and Trainer with great results and 30 years experience.  Very effective.  A little eccentric. Usually happy. Visit the Sales Dynamo website!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Knitter's Elbow

Illustration from WebMD.com
As I've mentioned a couple of times, I've recently moved my home.  I'm only just across town, but it has made a difference in  my world.  The biggest change, knitter's elbow.

If you're not familiar (as I wasn't), it's the same injury they describe as tennis elbow, and no matter what you call it, knitting aggravates it. Caused by inflammation of a tendon connected to forearm muscles, it's a sharp and hobbling pain in the outside of the elbow, in my case on the left side.  I injured my arm moving a mattress a month ago, and reduced my overall activity level significantly in hopes of a speedy recovery.  Not so much.

It's a month later, and my elbow is worse.  I'm impressed at how painful this is!  I was in the grocer yesterday, and reached out for a 14.5 oz can of tomatoes at elbow level with my left arm.  In the two feet of space between the shelf and my cart, I dropped it!  My grip loosened in response to the pain shooting through my arm, and I realized I have more of a problem than I had realized.

As a former personal trainer and licensed massage therapist, I've done a fair amount of studying this phenomenon, and therefore lived blissfully in denial.  To accept that tennis/knitter's elbow is the problem would be to accept that ice, a sling, and (gasp!) no knitting were part of my future.  Obviously denial was preferable.  Not anymore.  I can't cook, open a jar, or do most other things that require two hands.  (You should see me try to drive!)

Have you had or do you have Knitter's Elbow?  If it's keeping you from sleeping, or visibly swollen, red or bruised, see a doctor.  None of the above?  In my athletic experience, with total rest and ice therapy, it can be over within about two weeks when you're lucky, a month to six weeks when you're not.  And if you're not noticing improvement at all after the first two weeks, you need to see your doctor.  There are surgical interventions for this pain when it's not just an inflammation but a tear (or worse) to your tendon.

It's hard to imagine what I'm going to do with no knitting for the next two weeks or more.  The Kindle will get a workout, and I suppose I can go for walks, but that will hardly fill my time.  Maybe it's time to gain a full appreciation of the filmography of Woody Allen.  Or learn French.  I'll let you know what's going on.  Anybody out there in the same boat?  I'm open to suggestions, and to your stories of recovery.

20 comments:

Debbie said...

Ah, I feel badly for you. I, too, had tenosynovitis in my right wrist (I'm right-handed) about 25 years ago. At the time I was a data entry clerk and this kind of injury wasn't yet covered under workman's comp. The only thing that allowed me to finally heal was TOTAL immobilization (a cast from my fingertips to my elbow) and prescription anti-inflammatory drugs for 3 weeks. AND I had to go to a specialist because my GP had never seen such a severe case. If you don't see improvement soon, I recommend a visit to an orthopedic surgeon. Good luck!

Susan said...

My husband is dealing with the same thing (work related, not knitting). He has a brace that is a relatively simple band that straps around his forearm just below the elbow and it has helped a lot! Good luck to you and I hope you are feeling better soon!

Elizabeth D said...

My sympathies! Perhaps you could start dreaming up patterns while you wait until you can actually test drive them. Or maybe it's a good window to think about writing a book. . .

Liz Marino said...

Thanks for all he support. So far, the sling is working, but driving me a little crazy. Regarding a book, I have two in the hopper, but have broken up with my publisher. Any suggestions?

Peggy said...

Thank you!!! Lately my elbow has been feeling as if I banged it on something! I never made the connection between the soreness and my knitting - I've been knitting like crazy this winter! I just finished my fourth sweater! I guess I'll have to give my needles a rest for a couple of weeks and see what happens.

Hannah said...

I'm having the same issue with my elbow. (Mine was caused by crocheting.) Did you notice the pain lessen after 2 weeks of rest? I'm just curious because I am being a sore loser about not being able to craft for a spell. Hope your recovery went well!

Luciana Ariel said...

I'm suffering with this now. Not so much pain, but my fingers go numb after just a few minutes of knitting. I'm trying to wear my hand brace as much as possible, but this not knitting is really getting me down. Like you, my reading has increased :) SOOOOOOOO many WIPs though! My knitmeter shows so far this year I have knit over 3 mi. and crocheted almost 3mi. :/

sue said...

and there I was hoping against hope that you'd offer a magic wand and I'd be able to knit again in the very near future.

I'd had this years ago from cooking and too much keyboard work, but knitting! Noooooo... it's my de-stress, meditative therapy. Can you hear my mournful and somewhat distressed sighing? Sue

Anonymous said...

Well, looks like I have a mild case in BOTH elbows! I just went to the chiropractor who is also an ART practitioner and he did ART on both forearms. I don't think I have knitted that much lately, so I am surprised. I also work at a computer a lot, so perhaps it is the cumulative effect. I hope it heals quickly... cause I have to knit!

anne branca said...

I have it in both elbows. I am about to try laser therapy. The steriods helped alittle for a short time.I am trying to read more and knit less. Yikes it is awful.Good luck.

Donnachang said...

I didn't really realize this was a "thing". I am a beginning knitter and have been knitting (almost non-stop) for a few months. My knitting has come along great, but my elbow not so much. I first started noticing pain about a month in. I figured I was just using a muscle in a new way and was aggrevating it. When I try to bring a glass up to my mouth my hand shakes. I just decided to look this up and saw your post. I haven't tried icing it, I guess I should do that. But I'm wondering; does it get progressively worse?

Elisabeth Marino said...

Sadly, it does get progressively worse, and you risk doing permanent damage. Take the time off to let it heal. I know it's really frustrating, but trust me: months of pain will be worse. Follow the icing and total rest advice for at least two weeks. If it improves substantially, that's your answer. Also, check in with a knitting teacher to see if you have some issues with your form that could help relieve the stress on your elbow. Good Luck!

l said...

Oh, poo. Not knit for weeks? If it's not one thing, it's something else! Boo!

Elizabeth N. said...

I am so relieved that knitters everywhere are such a responsive community.

Off to go ice my elbow and hang out on revelry organizing my queue.

I did see several exercises on line that I can do to relieve the pain, and they do feel like relief. If you google "exercises for tennis elbow" a number of them will come up.

Jules said...

Thanks for the tip re finding exercises. I'm not sure if I'm suffering from the same thing as it seems to be more in my forearm than my elbow, but there are some things I just can't lift any more due to the pain. And it's my left arm which surprises me because I'm right handed. I was blaming in on smaller needles. I just want to finish this project I'm working on for my DIL and then perhaps one for myself and then perhaps I can rest it (yes, I'm still in denial).

Anonymous said...

How did the knitting elbow story end?

Anonymous said...

As I can see we are quite a lot of knitters in the same boat. I have had this pain for 9 months . Last July I knitted a lot while visiting my grandchildren. Thay wanted scarves, mittens without the fingers, headbands. I love knitting and teaching my grand-daughter of 10 was a very precious time spent together. I started having pain in my right elbow in August. Tought that if I would rest it would go away. I did continue to do wet felting, without pain. But when I would try to reach something or lift or use the can opener, it was really painful, to a point that I could no longer eat using my right hand. I had 2 osteopatic treatments that helped, as long as I did nothing at all. I finally went to seek medical advice. I do have a lateral epicondylitis of my right elbow. I had a month ago a cortisone infiltration, the pain got so bad for the 3 first days, but now I get some things I can do without pain, no lifting or knitting yet. I have been reading too, I have been dreaming of all the beautiful scarves and shawls I want to felt. At times I have been quite depressed of not being able to do anything. My husband would take me to the Museum , then I can think about something else and admire beautiful work of arts.
Have you fully recovered by now, did you find a different way for knitting without pain?

Trenny said...

Oh rats my massage therapist has sent this through to me as I am suffering exactly the same thing in my left elbow and have come to the conclusion that yes it is my knitting that is causing it!!!!! Like you I don't know how I am going to entertain myself without sitting down to a quiet little knit. Maybe if I did a quiet little knit it would be OK rather than sitting down and knitting very fast and for a long period. I have started the ice treatment and it seems to be helping. Mine pain is not to the level of yours yet though so a good warning to take it easier.

Trenny said...

Oh rats my massage therapist has sent this through to me as I am suffering exactly the same thing in my left elbow and have come to the conclusion that yes it is my knitting that is causing it!!!!! Like you I don't know how I am going to entertain myself without sitting down to a quiet little knit. Maybe if I did a quiet little knit it would be OK rather than sitting down and knitting very fast and for a long period. I have started the ice treatment and it seems to be helping. Mine pain is not to the level of yours yet though so a good warning to take it easier.

Susanne said...

What a blessing to find this blog... and so sorry to hear that so many of you are also facing this ordeal...

I have been (unsuccessfully) trying to "keep on" and push through... finally the PT gave it to me straight out .... put my arm on "bedrest" for six weeks (weekly electro stim treatments, ice, ice and more ice, wrist splint and chopat strap!) or accept that the damage is permanent and learn to live with it. Given that I have already turned that corner with significant back and neck disability... But... all my yarn! My solace and comfort!

I had recently been trying out spool/loom knitting with my daughter (developmental disability limits fine motor and coordination)... wonder if using some kind of knitting board might be alternative (with other hand?)

Has anyone tried machine knitting as an alternative?

I appreciate feedback!