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February 2, 2014

Creative Knitting, Crocheting and Needlework for Health
Alexandra Andrews

Knitting, crocheting and other repetitive needlework bring invaluable health benefits. They promote a sense of accomplishment. By creating designs - choosing colors, materials, sizes - you make gifts both for yourself and others. Handcrafts can be a social activity to share with friends and family. Projects can be done anywhere: traveling by bus, car, plane trips, standing in line, in a waiting room, getting chemotherapy, at a meeting, sports events, watching TV, listening to books on tape, the radio, or discussions. 1

Because knitting, crocheting and needlework are rhythmic and repetitive, they can promote a meditative state. This associated relaxation response 2,3 helps with improved health benefits such as:
- May help prevent and manage stress
- May help with pain management4
- May help with depression5
- May strengthen the immune system
- May decrease heart rate and blood pressure
- May lessen anxiety
- May lessen muscle tension
- May promote spirituality
- May help with promoting improved brain function by engaging in cognitive activities6,7
- Knitting is a gentle exercise for fingers and hands. Doing handcrafts may help relax joints for those with arthritis.8, 9
Those who are physically impaired - hearing, visually, limited mobility and long-term physical limitations - can engage in meaningful handwork projects.

Getting started
-Find a comfortable seat.
- Think of putting your feet up using a footrest. This helps with circulation and relaxation.
- Make sure there is adequate light.
- Take a break every hour. Get up and move around.
- Stop and take a rest if there is pain in your fingers, hands, or wrists.
- If you have weakened hands, wrists, and arms because of arthritis, or neuropathy,
      - Single point metal knitting needles may be too heavy or awkward to use.
      - Some users find metal needles are slippery and plus cause vision issues.
      - Suggestions for needles are choose wood/bamboo needles, use circular knitting needles. Large knitted items can be heavy. Circular needles allow you to put the project in your lap or on a table, taking the weight off your wrists and hands.

Beginning hand warm-up exercises Just as you do stretching exercises for your body, you need to do warm-ups for your hands and fingers. Here are brief exercises:
- Rub your hands together briskly.
- Do eight hand rotations each way - eight rotations to the right and then eight rotations to the left.
- Squeeze your hands count to eight and then release. Do these eight times.
- Massage the sections of your fingers and hands.

Breathing properly is a key factor in all exercise programs. By itself, breathing is a good exercise. Its benefits are twofold: therapeutic and relaxing. Breathing exercises can be used to improve the habits of those who breathe lightly, expanding only the upper chest. They are also a good way to rest between exercises. Urge your patient to let go of all the muscles in his neck and shoulders and fill his lungs all the way. This will break the cycle of shallow tension breathing. 10

Handcrafts such as knitting, crocheting and needlework may have important qualitative value related to health and well-being.11 They enhance a sense of self, purpose, social support, and of expression. Handcrafting builds confidence, bringing pleasure and pride in creating and completing a project. 12,13,14

Hand Craft References

Thank you Song Palmese of the Hands On Help service available at Article Pract for your input and ideas.

Of Interest:
Meditation: Once Over Lightly
Breathing For Pain Relief
Relaxation Exercises for Pain Relief

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