Knitter’s Elbow

Devin Ventre

It’s become kind of iconic in our household: Mama sitting on the couch, knitting. Sometimes when I put my three year old to bed, she tells me that I need to go sit on the couch, in my regular spot, and KNIT.  It’s like she feels safe knowing that I will be there, with my needles clicking, if she needs anything. So, knitting is kind of important in our house.  Which is why this next part is so hard for me to talk about.  But I’ve decided to tell you the truth...

I have... *sigh*...  Knitter’s Elbow. Sometimes called (ok, always called) Golfer’s Elbow, which is basically tendonitis which causes pain on the inside of the elbow.  (Tennis Elbow hurts on the outside.) It’s really, really crummy, because it means no knitting for me. They might also call it Carrying a Baby Elbow because that’s another thing that makes it worse.  I’ve tested it.

This pain has been nagging me for awhile, and now it has become unbearable.  If you found this blog because you googled “Knitter’s Elbow,” here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.  (I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.  No, not really... I’m not a real doctor or even a fake doctor. My comments are experiential only - take it for what it’s worth.)

1. Tendonitis is sharp pain, found on one localized area.  If your forearms are generally fatigued, that’s great news!  It’s not tendonitis. I saw several recommendations on websites for ways to massage your tired arms.  Do it GENTLY.  I think I did it too hard and made it worse.  Don’t do that.

2. Tendonitis gets worse if you keep knitting.  Trust me, I know how hard it is, but you have to REST.  Once they feel better, ease back in.  Don’t try to knit that baby blanket all in one night if you’re recovering.  REST. Read a book or maybe sew a skirt to go with that sweater you can't work on.

3. Use ICE and ibuprofen as needed.  I can't stress the importance of 20 minutes of ice on and then 20 minutes off enough!  It's as close to a cure as you're going to get.

4. Save your arms: Carry the baby in a carrier. Tell the kids you’d love to watch them color, but can’t grip a crayon until your arm heals.  And watch how you sleep.  If you’re sleeping with your arm bent, then quit it.  Keep your arms straight or just slightly bent when you sleep. How sad would it be to reduce your knitting ability while you’re SLEEPING?!

5. Finally, wear a brace to relieve fatigue on those poor tendons.  It's not totally necessary, but it helps if the pain is really bad.

So, for now I keep walking by my stash and feeling the yarn... holding it up and looking at it in the light and just generally admiring it.  And then I sit down and cry.  Which is a little ridiculous because not being able to knit isn’t like having a terminally ill child or something.  Some people have real problems.  But it’s still kind of a bummer.  

This post was originally written in 2013, but has been updated for 2019.  I haven't suffered from Knitter's Elbow in a long time because every time I feel it coming on, I rest immediately.  Not that I do nothing, but i do DIFFERENT things.  Good luck!  :)

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  • Someone in my online knitting group is suffering from pain associated with knitting. I will share the article with them.


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