Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Crocheting: A Pain in the... Everywhere!

***Scroll to links/bold portions if you are in a hurry!*** 

I first picked up a crochet hook when I was about 10, maybe 11. I struggled to grasp the concept of it and didn't have anyone willing to teach me. By age 13-14 I had mostly figured it out with some help here or there along the way. I didn't become serious about it until I was pregnant with my first born though. Until I found out her gender at 17 weeks, I had never completed a large project (minus a pillow casing). In fact, before finding out her gender I started about three blankets and dropped them.

But when I found out I was having a little girl I started crocheting like crazy. I found a pattern I liked (the chevron pattern) and made a huge mistake in it for about the first 14 rows. For whatever reason it wasn't zig-zag, it was straight, but it did have the points! I figured out what I did and instead of undoing all the hard work I'd done on those 14 rows I just fixed it and kept going. I had to replicate that mistake in the last 14 rows and ended up with a rectangle chevron blanket. It was the best mistake I had ever made.

Here is a picture:

So there you have it: my first project and most successful mistake. But that isn't isn't what this really post. It's about how much pain crocheting can cause you and what you probably haven't thought to do about it. Having been actively crocheting since age 17 (I'm 21 now) I've experienced my fair share of pain from this art! 

I've read the blogs that give the advice on what to do about some of this pain but have not yet seen one mention SMR. This abbreviation stands for Self Myofascial Release. I learned about this technique while working with a personal trainer and working to lose weight (successfully lost 60 lbs after having my son!). There were several things I struggled with aside from weight that caused me to seek out a personal trainer. One was immense pain. Having broken my back at 16, daily pain throughout my entire body was a norm for me, particularly due to muscle tightness. My trainer gave me this purple, hard rubbery ball she called an SMR ball and promised that I would fall in love with it. 

I have to admit, I took it home and let it sit on my shelf. She quickly caught on to that so she showed me how to use it at the gym and the relief I felt afterwards was indescribable. It was like an instant release. The pain it took to get that release (this ball is also called a pain ball, jokingly) was a bit difficult but so worth it in the end that I still use this ball months after I stopped working with my trainer. 

Now on to how it helps with crochet related pain! 

When we crochet, we sit. Sometimes we will sit for hours! Our posture isn't always perfect and we don't always stretch out afterwards. Crocheting is one of the most beautiful forms of art in my opinion but it comes at a cost! Neck pain. Shoulder pain. Back pain. Wrist pain. The list goes on and on of different pain complaints I've seen and experienced myself. 

Well, one day my husband walked up behind me and started to massage my shoulder because I had commented that it was hurting. I reached back and felt the muscle he was working on and it felt as if I had hit a brick wall with my hand. It was so hard! Muscles are not usually so hard and aren't supposed to be, right? So I grabbed my handy little SMR ball and worked it for 1 minute on that spot. The pain I felt in that one minute radiated down my arm as the muscle got worked. After about 30 seconds, I started to feel some release and after the minute was up, my muscle was completely soft and relaxed. 

It was amazing. 

I have no idea why I hadn't thought of using SMR for my stiff muscle pains due to crocheting before! Oh the pain it would have saved me. 

SMR works the same way trigger points do. If you've ever been to a chiropractic office (which I also recommend as not much feels better then getting your wrist adjusted when it is hurting from long hours of hooking) that has done trigger point therapy you already have an idea of how this work. Trigger points are areas in your body that hurt and when deep pressure is applied, it helps to alleviate the pain. The attached link has wonderful information as well as a weird looking picture that can really give you an idea of what it is and where they are located. 

Trigger point therapy was a painful therapy for me (and one that would make me pass out while pregnant, I do not recommend this while pregnant unless you talk to a doctor first), but one that left me feeling refreshed and springy afterwards. I say springy because before the nurses at my chiro's office would do it, I would feel condensed which is a horrible feeling of tightness and lack of flexibility. :p 

Some key things my trainer informed me with the SMR ball when she first started me on this path:

  1. Never put it on your spine. Put it on one side or the other but never on your spine. The point of this exercise is to help with your muscle tightness/pain. Placing it on a bone will just cause needless pain. 
  2. Work it in groups. If you do it on one spot on your shoulder that is real tight and hurts, pick a spot on that same shoulder in a different spot and repeat it. Do it on a third spot as well. She always had me work it in three similar areas before picking a different spot. 
  3. Places I commonly use it: my hips, my shoulders, my neck, my mid and low back (I'd usually do two spots on my low back and 1 spot on my mid), my butt (check out that trigger points link and you'll see the trigger points located in that area) - and then repeat it on the other side. 
  4. I would feel creepy crawlies go down my arm or in completely different areas of my body while doing this exercise. She told me this was normal, after all our muscles are a system. One affects others.
This is something, upon simple research or even clicking the links I've shared above, that you will see is commonly associated with exercise and athletes. That does not mean it can't help in other areas of your life!

Here are some youtube links showing you how others use this ball:

Youtube 1

You can use it on your calf, the balls of your foot, your hips, your butt, your back, the very base of your skull (helps with headaches caused by muscle tension), your shoulder, your chest, etc! It's a long list of stuff this ball can help. 

Oh, and if you don't want to spend the $20 buck son an actual SMR ball, others use tennis balls and lacrosse balls. :) If you're looking to save money hit up the pet store and get one for $.99!

The last bit of equipment that I used with my trainer that helped with this ball is a Airex Balance Pad. They are a bit pricier and you can totally get an off brand one. The reason this pad helped me was because holding yourself up and lowering yourself onto the ball takes a lot of body control. Sometimes it will be easy and you can just lay on the ball and hit that spot. Other times you will have to raise yourself off the ground (always keep your body in line, ankles, knees and hips in line) and really work the ball. I encourage you to look at other videos that might show you different ways to achieve this! The pad helps by taking some of the work off of your body because you sit one side on the pad and it pushes the other side (that is on the ball) a bit deeper onto the ball.
So there you have it. That's the trick I use to help with my regular back pain from my crochet (and everything else) related pain. It works and has so many more benefits then just pain relief.

***I am not a doctor and urge you to talk to a professional. This will not work for everyone.***

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