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Ten Hand and Shoulder Exercises for Knitters

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Sitting in one position and concentrating on your knitting for long (or even short) periods of time can make your shoulders and neck stiff. Not to mention that holding needles and making small movements with your hands can cramp your fingers and wrists. These exercises (they’re so helpful that we couldn’t stop at just ten) will keep your body’s knitting parts loose, limber, and fatigue-free if you take a break and do them every 20 minutes or so while you’re working.

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One way to relax your neck muscles

Start by unkinking your neck stretches. Sit (or stand) with your arms hanging naturally at your sides. Keeping your shoulders relaxed and down, do the following moves (just don’t forget to breathe!):

  1. Tilt your head forward gently to stretch the back of your neck and hold for 5 seconds.

  2. Turn your head to one side, look over your shoulder, and hold for 5 seconds.

  3. Slowly turn and look over your other shoulder, holding for 5 seconds.

  4. Tilt your head to one shoulder and (you guessed it) hold for 5 seconds.

  5. Tilt your head to your other shoulder, holding for 5 seconds.

Five ways to slough stress from your shoulders and arms

At the first signs of tightness in your shoulders or arms, take a few minutes to do these exercises (preferably in this order, but you can always focus on one more than the others to reduce a particular nagging pain):

  • Bring your shoulders up to your ears and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Then relax your shoulders down into their natural position.

  • Interlace your fingers and stretch your arms out in front of you, with your palms facing away from your body. Hold this pose for 10 seconds.

  • Keeping your fingers interlaced and your palms facing out, reach your arms over your head. Stretch up, up, and up until you can feel the stretch as far down as your upper rib cage. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and breathe deeply.

  • Standing or sitting up straight, interlace your fingers and cup the back of your head. Bring your elbows back and pull your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds, and then relax.

  • Place your right hand on your left shoulder. With your left hand, grab your right arm just above the elbow and look over your right shoulder. While looking over your shoulder, use your left hand to gently pull your right arm to the left until you feel your muscle stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Change sides and stretch the other shoulder and arm.

Five ways to relax your hands and wrists

Need to uncramp tightened fingers and wrists? Practice the following stretches and be sure to keep breathing as you do them:

  • Spread and stretch your fingers as widely as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Then ball your fingers into fists and hold for another 10 seconds.

  • With your arms extended straight out in front of you, bend your wrists back, bringing your fingers straight up. Hold for 10 seconds. Then bend your wrists down and point your fingers to the floor, holding for another 10 seconds.

  • While keeping your elbows bent and close together, interlock your fingers and rotate your hands and wrists clockwise ten times. Reverse direction and rotate your hands and wrists in the other direction ten times. (This move feels a little awkward at first, but it works.)

  • With your arms extended in front of you, slowly rotate your wrists so the backs of your hands are together. Hold this position and enjoy the stretch.

  • Arrange your hands palm to palm in front of you (think of a prayer position). Keeping your palms together, rotate your wrists away from your body, pointing your fingers downward until you feel a mild stretch. Hold for 5 to 8 seconds without letting your shoulders tense up or lift.

End your stretches by allowing your arms to hang loosely at your sides. Then shake your hands and wiggle your fingers.

If you find that your wrists are sore after knitting with straight needles for long stretches of time, you may want to try knitting with circular needles instead. The slight difference in wrist position when using circulars can make a big difference, particularly if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or a similar condition.


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