Handicraft, repetitive stress injuries and keeping nimble fingers

Two years ago I started getting numbness in my right hand. More than twenty years of doing office work paired with a ton of smartphone use had started to take its toll. One of my friends had suggested switching my mouse at work to the left hand. It took a couple weeks to get used to but it really helped. 

Manual dexterity may not seem like a big fitness issue but think of all the basic things that require reliable grip strength: food prep, eating, computer work and a big one for me is all the things I make. 

I knit, crochet, sew and do needle point of all kinds. Chopping vegetables for all the yummy dinners sometimes makes all those tendons and muscles ache. 

It turns out repetitive stress injuries can be prevented by doing a variety of tasks. I once chatted with a woman who hand sews theatre costumes. She told me many folks couldn’t keep practicing their craft after a certain age. She had no problems with her hands, attributing it to her production knitting in the off season. 

Switching up activities gives muscles and connecting tissues a chance to rest and build up strength with the new activity. 

I joke that knitting and crocheting helps me turn my ball of anxiety into lovely items. I think of my mom making  Anj and I socks, sweaters, hats and mitts. One of my favourite memories is how Mom would knit two socks at the same time until she got to turning the heel. We’d then visit Grammie who would smoke and turn the heels while chatting with us. Every time I turn a heel of a sock I think of her. She taught me how to cast on by doubling the yarn. It looks great and never rolls. 

While I’m not a skilled quilter I love how you get to paint with fabrics.  More than that it reminds me of my late Aunt Linda who never wore a bra and made amazing quilts with stunning colours. 

Lately I’ve dusted off some needle point started by my Great-Aunt June. The repetition of the needle through the canvass making little diagonal stripes of colour is very soothing. 

So when my hands start giving me grief doing one thing I switch things up by doing a different handicraft. 

The trick is sewing and typing on the computer have the same posture so I have to be sure to sub in the other things. I’m hoping to keep my  fingers nimble for many years to come and I love how making things connects me to memories of great women in my life. 

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