Crochet and Medicine · Miscellaneous · Solving Crochet-Related Problems

What to do About Pain in Your Left Hand From Crocheting

We’ve all heard about pain in the hand that holds your hook, but have you ever had pain in the hand that holds your project?

I’m a right-handed crocheter (I hold the hook in my right hand), but a few weeks ago, I  started feeling pain in my left hand. It started the day after I crocheted for 5 hours straight.

I stopped crocheting for a few days to give my hand a rest. When the pain still didn’t go away, I began researching the causes of this pain and remedies for it. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of information out there about pain in the hand that holds the hook. I had to sift through a lot of that in order to find the information about pain in the hand that holds the project.

I’ve compiled my findings here for you.

What sort of pain was it?

The pain I felt was in the base of my thumb, in the palm of my hand. Basically, the “meaty” area of your palm that moves when you move your thumb around. It’d hurt more if I was holding something, or if I was touching the tip of my thumb to the tip of my other fingers on the same hand.

What’s the cause?

All that time spent studying anatomy in medical school would finally come in handy in crochet! I narrowed down the muscles that were most likely involved to three muscles: the opponens pollicis, the adductor pollicis (not to be confused with the abductor pollicis) and the brachialis. The first two are in your hand, and the brachialis is in your arm, but can cause pain in the thumb area.

800px-1121_intrinsic_muscles_of_the_hand_superficial_sin

The opponens pollicis and adductor pollicis, shown in the left hand. 

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The brachialis muscles highlighted in red. 

All 3 of these muscles can cause pain near the thumb if overworked.

So if you feel pain when pinching or holding items between your thumb and the other fingers of the same hand, it could be due to the opponens pollicis or adductor pollicis. You can overwork these muscles if you hold something in your hand for a long period of time – so activities like drawing, sewing, or crocheting can cause this pain.

It’s not surprising that I had pain there after crocheting for about 5 hours straight. To make matters worse, I have a bad habit of holding my crochet project too tightly.

The brachialis muscle in your arm is responsible for bending your elbow. You can overwork this muscle doing anything that requires your elbow to be bent for long periods of time – like playing the guitar, moving boxes, driving, using the computer, or crocheting! Even though this muscle is in your arm, overusing the brachialis can cause pain in the base of your thumb.

What can be done about this pain?

Luckily, a number of things can be done.

Rest! Take a break for a while.

I stopped crocheting for about 4 days straight, but the pain was still there. So I turned to:

Trigger point therapy!

A trigger point is a grouchy little spot in a taut band of muscle that hurts when you press on it. The size of the spot can vary in size – from the size of a grain of rice to about the size of a quarter.  Trigger points can cause pain near where they are, or in a surprisingly different part of the body.

You can resolve trigger points with proper massage. When you  massage a trigger point, it may feel painful. But like a nice back massage after a long day, that pain often feels therapeutic, and almost enjoyable. The first step is figuring out where the trigger point is (more on that later.) Then use a deep stroking massage, with short, repeated strokes over the pained spot, from one side to the other. I often massage in one direction to make things easy for myself. I also do the strokes slowly to get the most out of it.

As for how hard you should press, you’ll want to aim for a pain level of 5 out of 10.

It’s possible to overwork trigger points with massage. Clair Davies, who wrote “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook,” recommends only doing 10-12 slow strokes per trigger point, and working each trigger point 3-6 times a day.

This massage can be done by yourself or by someone else, as long as you know where the trigger points are.

Here are a few links with diagrams on where to find these trigger points for massage.

This page contains the trigger points for both the adductor pollicis and opponens pollicis.   contains the trigger points for both the adductor pollicis and opponens pollicis.  The trigger points for the adductor pollicis are shown in Figure A black X’s. The trigger points for the opponens pollicis are shown in Figure B as black X’s. The red dotted area shows where you’d feel pain due to these trigger points.

This page shows where you where you can find trigger points in the brachialis muscle. shows where you where you can find trigger points in the brachialis muscle.

If you’re not getting any relief – you might be working on the wrong spot.

I made this mistake early on. I initially focused only on the opponens pollicis trigger points, but after days of working on that, I’d still get the pain within 40 minutes of crocheting. Luckily, while putting together this blog post, I found out that I had overlooked the trigger points for another muscle: the adductor pollicis. After just 2 days of working on that trigger point, the problem seems to have completely resolved. I can’t even intentionally reproduce the pain anymore!

Ways to avoid prevent this pain in the future:

1. Hold the project a little more loosely. You might be holding the project a little too tightly. This can be a tough habit to break. I try to stay aware of it going on. Every so often, I’ll catch myself holding the project too tightly again, and I relax my grip.

2. Don’t binge crochet! Take a break at least once every hour or two hours. Do something else that doesn’t involve holding something with your thumb.

3. Change the type of yarn you use! Not that you needed another excuse to go yarn shopping…but try switching to a yarn with a different texture or size. Smoother or thinner yarns can be easier to work with.

Yarns that were thicker or more “friction-ey” would sometimes cause me problems. Think of it like this: if your yarn is smooth or thin, you end up using less force to yarn over and pull through. You can afford to hold the project more loosely because you don’t have to pull as hard to yarn over and pull through. But if you’re using thicker, rougher yarn, you end up having to hold your project more tightly so that it doesn’t slip out of your grip when you crochet.

It may not seem like a lot more work, but with every single stitch you make, your thumb has to hold your project more firmly for a moment. All that exertion adds up quickly.

 

4. Try a thumb stabilizer. Disclaimer: I personally haven’t tried this, but I’ve read that such a brace can provide support and pain relief.

thumb-stabilizer

Want to know more?

Lastly, for those who would like to learn more about trigger point therapy, there are some great resources out there. My favorite is “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief” by Clair Davies. This is the most thorough resource I’ve found. The author walks you through how you can massage yourself, even for hard to reach trigger points on your back. He also did a great job of writing in an easy-to-understand language.

Here are a few more great resources I’ve found online. I’m not affiliated with the book, or any of the following sites. I also don’t receive any sort of compensation for mentioning them. I suggest them because they’ve been helpful to me, and I hope that they can help you too.

Muscle-joint-pain.com’s page on the adductor pollicis

Triggerpoints.net

Ground Up Strength’s page on the brachialis muscle

 

Have you ever felt pain in your non-hook hand from crocheting? Did you find other ways to deal with it? Did my suggestions help you? Did you try them but still have pain? I’d love to hear from you. Share your experiences below!

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