Knitting is known as a relaxing hobby, hence why it’s popular among individuals who want a calming experience. However, while that may be the case, “calming” isn’t the only experience some knitters had. Some, for example, got headaches.
Of course, the experience of a chosen few isn’t conclusive enough to say that this activity results in those kinds of side effects. So, can knitting give you a headache?
It turns out it can, though it’s not unlikely. To be precise, you need to be doing something wrong for this kind of activity to cause headaches.
If you’re one of the few individuals who experience frequent headaches when knitting, then it would help to understand why exactly that’s happening.
Why Do You Get Headaches When Knitting?
Knitters would usually only get a headache due to the following reasons:
1. You’ve been doing it for longer than advisable
It goes without saying that doing really anything for too long isn’t advisable.
That applies to most activities, like crocheting, sewing, and even objectively healthy activities like exercising. Therefore, it makes sense that it also applies to knitting.
Headache is a common result of prolonged knitting because every second you knit, you’re using your eyes. Do that for too long and you can strain your eyes.
And if you’re not aware, frequent eye strain can result in headaches.
The good news is you can very easily avoid this by taking a ten-minute break every hour. It allows you to rest your hands, but most importantly, your eyes and head.
It’s also advisable to stretch your body during that break since you’re most likely stationary while knitting. You don’t want to stay that way for too long since you want your blood to circulate well. And simply lying down won’t do so much.
2. Your vision is bad
If you haven’t been knitting for that long and you already have a mild headache, there’s a good chance it’s because of your vision, or more specifically, low vision.
Though eye strain usually takes place due to the prolonged use of eyes, it also results from various vision problems. To be specific, eye strain may occur due to improper focusing, whether you’re farsighted, nearsighted, or have astigmatism.
In this case, you don’t necessarily have to use your eyes for that long, and you’ll still strain your eyes. To avoid this, use eyeglasses to aid with your vision problem.
3. You’re knitting with limited lighting
Eye strain is also associated with lighting. The ideal scenario is that you use your eyes only when there’s sufficient. If there isn’t, like if it’s dark, for example, then you’ll have to focus or strain your eyes more than usual, resulting in eye strains.
Again, this is easily avoidable. You simply need to turn on the lights, and if there are no light fixtures in the area, just move to a different area with at least one.
4. You’re not in tip-top shape
Though many people say that knitting doesn’t require a strong body, that doesn’t mean you can do it when you’re sickly or not in tip-top shape. If you’re hungry, for example, it would be stranger if you didn’t experience side effects when knitting.
The same applies to when you didn’t take your medication or you’re mildly ill. So, before you knit, make sure your body is at least in a decently healthy shape.
5. You’re using the wrong tools
Knitting needles come in different shapes and sizes, while yarn comes in different weights. Certain knitting projects require the needle to be of a specific size and the yarn to be of a particular weight. Otherwise, you may struggle to finish the project.
Unfortunately, not every knitter knows this, especially beginners. So, what they may end up doing is using a knitting needle that’s too small or yarn that’s too thin.
If that’s what you’ve been doing up until now, it makes sense that you often get headaches. After all, it takes an expert to use a small knitting needle on a thin yarn.
To prevent headaches from happening because of this, it’s best if you use a bigger needle and thicker yarn. That way, you won’t have to strain your eyes too much.
With that, you must have already realized that headaches during knitting mostly happen due to eye strains. The brain typically has nothing to do with it, contrary to common belief. It’s actually quite the opposite, as the brain benefits from knitting.
What Happens to Your Brain When You Knit?
When someone gets a headache, they assume it’s because something must have happened to the head or brain. So, when one gets a headache due to knitting, one thing they may assume would be that knitting negatively affects the brain.
However, that can’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, knitting offers a lot of benefits for the brain. Here are just some examples of these potential benefits:
- Improves eye-hand coordination
- Generates a sense of calm
- Enhances emotional processing
- Leads to better decision-making
- Amplifies cognitive functioning
These are some examples of the positive effects knitting showcased in this particular research. Keep in mind though that these are just according to the observations.
They still lack conclusive evidence as to why these benefits take place.
However, other studies have shown similar results.
Needless to say, rather than think of knitting as something that affects the brain negatively, think of this activity as something that leads to positive changes.
But again, nothing good will come out of overdoing the activity. After all, in most cases, it can lead to several other side effects apart from headaches.
What Are the Side Effects of Knitting?
Depending on what you’re doing wrong, knitting can lead to the following side effects:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that leads to the tingling, pain, and numbness of the forearm or hand. It occurs when the median nerve – one of the major nerves in the hand – is pinched or squeezed too tightly and frequently.
Carpal tunnel often takes place as a result of repetitive activities that involve grasping movements with your hands, like typing with a keyboard and knitting.
Tendonitis, as the name implies, occurs when your tendon swells, causing stiffness and joint pain around the affected area. It also limits how much you can move the area where the affected tendon is located.
Similar to carpal tunnel, it results from either repetitive movement like knitting or intensive activities like sports. Tendonitis usually lasts for only two to three weeks.
Arthritis is a rather gray area when it comes to knitting. It’s a condition where one or more joints experience swelling or inflammation.
Symptoms include stiffness and joint pain, similar to tendonitis.
Though knitting can cause arthritis, it only occurs if you’re doing something terribly wrong. For example, if you’re putting too much pressure on your finger joints.
Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI)
As the name suggests, Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) is a condition that occurs when you do repetitive movements using a singular body part. In the case of knitting, that body part is the arm or fingers. It causes aches and pain in that area.
While these four can be considered side effects of knitting, they don’t directly cause the issue. In some cases, it’s because of another factor aside from knitting.
For example, you would only get tendonitis or carpal tunnel while knitting if you don’t stretch every once in a while. The same applies to most other issues.
Can Knitting Cause Pain?
Yes, knitting can most certainly cause pain. But that’s a normal result of knitting for too long. Experiencing pain while knitting for extended periods of time doesn’t mean you have a serious condition, or any health condition, for that matter.
This applies to most knitters, even to those with the best knitting technique in the world. Muscles get tired, joints get sore, and that’s perfectly normal for everyone.
If you don’t want that to happen, consider taking a break every once in a while so your muscles and joints don’t get tired, and stretching so they don’t get sore.
How Do You Cope With Headaches?
Since headaches have been a problem for knitters for a long time, there are tricks they learned to cope with this problem. Here are some examples of those tricks:
- Take over-the-counter medications (Aspirin, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen)
- Rest in a quiet and dark room (to minimize the number of stimuli)
- Consider a massage
- Consume caffeine (in moderation)
- Place a cold or hot compress on the neck or head
With these tricks, you should be able to minimize the pain that you’d feel from a headache. These may also help minimize the duration of the headache.
But as stated earlier, there’s no reason why you must learn how to cope with headaches, if you can just prevent them with simple steps. For example, rather than knitting for too long, take ten- to fifteen-minute breaks every hour of knitting.
The Bottom Line
Can knitting give you a headache? Though some knitters have already experienced it, they may find it hard to believe since knitting should be relaxing. But while that’s true, it doesn’t change the fact that any activity, when done excessively, can cause side effects. Hence, it makes sense that knitting, too, can give a headache.