There’s no need to not knit (can you say that 5 times quickly?) any more just because your hobby is causing you pain. In hand therapy, we see a lot of people with hands that are sore even though they haven’t had an injury. Particularly among our female patients, we regularly come across the complaint that hobbies such as knitting, crochet or sewing causes pain and sometimes people are forced to give up a favourite pastime.

There are multiple reasons for pain when knitting. It may be due to fatigue in the hands and arms; bad habits that have developed to help with tricky stitches; repetitive movements or holding a position for a long time; tension of the yarn, or from holding the needles too tightly. We often see people who have underlying arthritis in some joints which can be flared up by prolonged knitting, crochet or other needle work.  

Fatigue, repetition and posture. Doing any task for a long period of time will cause fatigue and pain. This pain is often felt through the hands and forearm, and may also affect your neck, back and shoulders. It is important to take regular short breaks, at least every 10 or 15 minutes, to relax and rest the muscles for a couple of minutes. Get up, and move your neck, shoulders, arms and hands around. Stretch gently. This will give your muscles some relief so that they can keep doing their job. Consider where you sit and how you sit – do you have good light, back support, and arm support? Consider a cushion on the lap or arm rests to reduce workload.

Bad habits or technique. Sometimes when knitting, you may find yourself cheating a little bit -  eg ‘tip tapping’ by pushing the tip of the needle to prevent the yarn falling off when pulling it through the existing stitch. When done repeatedly this leads to painful fingertips. If you need to use a thimble, consider changing your technique. Excessive circular wrist movements can cause pain; if this applies to you, look at the movement you make when wrapping the yarn; relax the wrists and try to shorten the movement so that the fingers do more work, and the forearms/wrists do less. You may find that changing equipment can help, such as circular needles to reduce the load on your wrists and arms. Try talking to other experienced knitters to refine your technique and ditch the bad habits.

Underlying conditions. Carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, trigger finger and tendonitis can all be aggravated by knitting. If you find that there is a recurring problem in the wrists or hands, talk to us to find out what the condition is and how to take care of it. It can be as simple as wearing an appropriate and customised splint or brace, exercises to make your hands more resilient, or techniques to compensate and bring you relief.

Remember that you don’t have to give up hobbies that you love just because you’re experiencing pain. Your hand experts are ready to help.


Written by Louise Brown, Senior Occupational Therapist