Hand and wrist pain is a common story for crocheters, knitters, and other crafters who spend a lot of time making repetitive motions with their hands.
If you visit the doctor, you may be told you have carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, arthritis, an RSI (repetitive strain injury), and that may be the case… or it may not.
Before you consider serious medical treatments like steroid injections or surgery to help with your hand pain, I’d suggest you read my story below, and see if you can fix yourself without the need for drugs or surgical interventions.
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, and if your doctor has diagnosed you with a condition, their recommended treatment may be the right solution for you. But I’d recommend you try this simple self-administered pressure treatment first – it can’t make things any worse, it’s fast and free, and it may relieve you of serious pain!
In 2007, I was mis-diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.
The pain was debilitating. I could no longer perform everyday tasks without agonizing pain: turning a door handle; pushing open a door with my palm; using a computer mouse; operating a can opener…
I was referred to a specialist, given a fancy wrist brace to lock my wrist straight, and told that if that didn’t fix the problem, my only other options were steroid injections or carpal tunnel surgery.
I wore the wrist brace for months, and learned to mouse left-handed. The brace helped with the pain, but the problem didn’t go away.
Eventually, I found a cure that was ridiculously simple, I could perform on myself at no cost, and has completely fixed the problem.
None of the doctors I visited considered this as a possibility.
The cause of all my debilitating wrist pain was a knotted muscle near my elbow.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Trigger Points & Referred Pain
When you overuse a muscle, it can cause sensitive areas of tight fibres to form, creating a knot in the muscle. The point where the knot forms is called a trigger point, and pressing on it causes an achy pain.
Now, here’s the crazy part: the muscle knot at the trigger point can cause serious pain in a different part of your body. This is called referred pain.
So the pain you feel may be caused by a trigger point elsewhere. No matter how much you treat your hand or wrist, you won’t be able to fix the problem if the pain, like mine, is caused by a trigger point in your upper forearm!
Once you know where the trigger point is that’s causing your pain, you can ‘unlock’ it – and stop the referred pain – by releasing the muscle knot yourself.
I learnt this ischemic pressure technique by watching a video from Dr Jonathan Kuttner, an expert in chronic muscle and joint pain. He has a couple of quick videos that explain the process – I highly recommend you watch them:
The process is the same to ‘turn off’ any trigger point. The key is to start with low enough pressure on the trigger point so it doesn’t hurt, then to gradually increase the pressure, but never to the level where it hurts.
(From experience, I can tell you that, if you’re too forceful, you’ll end up feeling like you’ve bruised yourself, and you don’t do any good. Slow and gentle is the way to go.)
Coincidentally, the trigger point Jonathan demonstrates ‘turning off’ in his video is the same one that caused my carpal tunnel-like symptoms and wrist/hand pain, so I could follow the instructions in his video exactly.
I’ve never been able to feel the nodule of knotted muscle he describes, but I know I’m in the right place when I feel the tender spot on my arm.
In 2009, when my condition was agonising, I could press the trigger point in my arm and immediately feel the referred pain in the back of my hand and wrist! That’s what convinced me that this was a) a real phenomenon and b) the cause of my problems.
Here’s me from an email I sent in 2009 when I’d just cured myself of my supposed ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’:
The myofascial thing is amazing – my wrist was so painful I couldn’t put any pressure on it while it was at all bent, so I couldn’t even open a door or a jar without it being agonisingly painful. I got one of those wrist splint things and it helped me to avoid the pain but it didn’t get better. And then I was googling and found this AMAZING thing – basically it was a referred pain caused by a muscle knot just below my elbow. And by doing gentle acupressure [sic] with my finger on this point, I healed it! I know it sounds like rubbish, but it’s totally true – when I pushed this exact spot on my arm, I could feel the pain in my wrist, even though I wasn’t doing anything to my wrist. Total magic.
Since then, I’ve rarely had the pain escalate to the terrible point it was at. I always treat it as soon as I realise what’s happening, and the knot has never had a chance to form as badly as it was back then.
I’ve developed the same problem in the other arm too, and now I can always find the trigger point on each arm – I feel a tender ache when I press on them. I try to do the ischemic pressure treatment whenever I remember, to stop the knot from forming in the first place. This works really well for me!
Finding Other Trigger Points
There are trigger points all over the body, and you can consult a trigger point diagram (like this one) that shows the position of the trigger point (marked with an X) and the possible locations of referred pain for that point (shown as a cloud of red). You can use those to help diagnose if any of your unexplained chronic pains may be caused by trigger points, and try to deactivate them if so.
I’ve had several other problems with pain that have also turned out to be trigger point related:
- I get pain at the base of my thumbs when I crochet (or use my phone) too much, and I’ve discovered that there are two trigger points in the thumb. Treating the lower trigger point at the base of the thumb seems to help me.
- I also occasionally get terrible upper back pain. When I have it, I can never get comfortable and I can’t sleep for the pain. The back pain turned out to be caused by trigger points, and now when my upper back and shoulders are hurting, I can usually fix it by unlocking the trigger points in my levator scapulae or trapezius muscles. (Here’s Jonathan’s article Trigger Points for Neck Pain).
Give It a Go
I have no idea how many people with hand pains from crochet or other crafts may also actually be suffering from a simple trigger point caused by a knotted muscle in their forearm, but please do try some trigger point pressure therapy and report back here if it helps!
A couple of tips on what to expect:
- If your pain is bad, I’ve found that it may take daily sessions over a week or two to completely turn off the trigger point, but you should be able to feel an improvement immediately.
- Your trigger points will probably reactivate in time, but knowing where they are and how to treat them means you can fix yourself in future before the stage of agonising pain, limited function and sleepless nights.
I hope this works for you as well as it has for me.
Here’s to more crafting, with less pain! 🙂