Knitting for Chronic Pain and Mental Health

Having arthritis has me living like a retiree. I knit, crochet, cross-stitch, read, and drink lots of tea under a heavy blanket. Knitting for chronic pain is not a new or revolutionary idea, but it is something I’ve found incredibly helpful! 

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition triggered by stress, when I was seventeen. As a teenager, it was frightening to suddenly be feeling this unexplained pain and have not even doctors know what was causing it. It took about three different specialists before I was finally diagnosed and given medication to help. 

My conditions are mostly stable now. As helpful as the medication has been, it’s how I fill my spare time that has helped the most. I had thought that all of my beloved hands-on hobbies like writing and drawing were through and that it wouldn’t be long before I couldn’t even hold a pencil. I was disheartened and lost, having put all my hopes and dreams into being an artist, and now that was being taken from me.

That didn’t turn out to be true. I’m lucky enough that my arthritis hasn’t progressed enough to affect my mobility, so I can still do all of the things I love. In fact, keeping my hands moving is highly recommended, just so long as I don’t overdo it. 

I fell in love with knitting in 2017. It took a few frustrated tries to get it right, and I ended up with a scarf that was quiet lovely, except for the ridged edge that had a few wrong steps thrown in. I made project for myself, starting simple, then making little rabbits for easter and cotton-filled birds. I knitted a temperature scarf in 2018, which involved knitting a row of a certain colour associated with the maximum temperature for the day. It yielded some pretty interesting results! 

From there I moved on to crochet. I loved making little toys, like dragons and woodland critters. During the summer I got into cross-stitching, which was incredibly cathartic as it involved stabbing something over and over. 

Crochet dragon and a knitted drawstring bag

I felt so good about getting into fibre arts because it’s been proven to be great for your mind! Not only does knitting keep your hands active, it also keeps your mind active. Studies have shown that knitting can decrease loneliness, feelings of depression, and can distract from the pain of arthritis. There’s something satisfying about following a relatively simple yet challenging pattern that engages you physically and mentally. It’s something you can do in front of the TV or while listening to podcasts, and you can even take it on public transport if you’re brave enough. 

Senior citizens who knit frequently have reported that the activity makes them feel more useful and productive. It’s a sad fact that our society demands that everyone is constantly working. Because of this, those of us who can’t work to full capacity end up feeling lonely and excluded. While I’m not a senior citizen, my chronic pain holds me back from many kinds of work. 

There’s no denying that making something with your hands feels incredibly rewarding; it’s productive and serves a purpose, whether it’s a scarf to keep you warm or a toy to amuse a small child. I’m a writer and a digital artist, so it’s a rare treat to create something tangible that I can hold. The process can sometimes feel monotonous, but by the end of it, you’ll have turned a ball of yarn into a wonderful new creation!

Conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia make it hard to continue doing the things you love. It can be easy to give up. But if you’re looking for a hobby that will get your hands and mind working, try knitting for chronic pain!

A knitted yellow bird with a silver wing and a silver ribbon
Knitted bird bookmark

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