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Arthritis is no excuse to abandon your knitting projects

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For those who suffer from arthritis, whether it is osteoarthritis or rheumatoid, there is no reason to stop knitting. According to Arthritis Today, the experts have unraveled the secrets to knitting with less pain. Knitting can keep fingers nimble, relax the mind and body and satisfy your creative side.

The first rule is to respect pain, and not to overdo it, stated Debbie Amini, assistant professor of occupational therapy at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. By respecting your pain, your body was telling you that something is not right. Experiencing pain in the shoulders or elbows while knitting, one should rest their arms on firm pillows to provide proper positioning. If pain is in the hands, it is time to take a break.

Carole Dodge, a certified hand therapist at the University of Michigan Hospital and Health Systems in Ann Arbor, recommends frequent breaks before experiencing pain. By knitting for twenty to thirty-minute stretches, then spending an hour or so doing other activities. It is wise to keep a timer available to gauge your time.

Occupational therapists and knitters with arthritis have compiled a few suggestions for reducing pain while knitting;

Warm up. Before starting to knit, gently stretch hands and upper body. Soak hands in warm water with Epsom salts or a paraffin wax bath.

Bulk up your needles. Wrap the ends of your needles with rubber bands or foam tubing to make them easier to grip.

Try new needles. Bamboo needles are lightweight: square or large-gauge needles may be easier to grip and a circular needle may reduce stress on your wrists.

Change your yarn. Use bulkier yarns that are easier than thin ones. Wool and wool blends are more flexible than many other materials.

Switch your technique. Carole Dodge recommends the European, or Continental technique, which requires less motion. For right-handlers, this involves holding the yarn tension with your left hand and pivoting the right needle around the yarn to make a stitch, or using a knitting loom that requires less hand movement.

Get support. A thumb splint can reduce pain and repetitive movement and help thumb positioning. Fingerless or compression gloves can support hands without hindering finger movement. (Imak gloves are recommended by Arthritis Foundation; $24 at imakproducts.com)

Try a yarn holder. If keeping the yarn wrapped around your finger is uncomfortable, try Cro-Knit ($8 at herrschners.com), which slips over your finger to keep tension constant on the yarn.

Keep it light. Blankets and heavy sweaters can be hard to manage with sore joints. Choose projects like scarves, hats or lightweight sweaters.

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