DIY Adaptive Technology–Crocheting

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As you know, my newest obsession hobby is crocheting. The impetus to delve into this craft was to give me something semi-constructive to do while having bouts of fatigue and being in bed all day, though awake most of the time. The enslaving cycle of Netflix and sleep could no longer be endured, especially once it started creating additional problems for me. So I began crocheting. But, as is typical for chronic pain and illness sufferers, I ran into some obstacles:  1) I developed tendonitis in my left thumb joint from holding my work-in-progress too tightly and 2) the metal crocheting hooks were giving me sores on my right hand and fingers. At first, I tried to be more relaxed and not hold myself or my project too tightly, but no matter how much I willed myself to stay loose, I ALWAYS ended up gradually getting tighter and tighter until sparks of pain broke my focus. As it seemed I would not be able to help myself without external assistance, I went to the “Google box”, as my husband calls it :-), and began researching tools for helping crocheters with hand problems. Surprisingly, I found ZERO articles about how to stop the hand that holds the working (“work-in-progress”) yarn and yarn tail, which is my left hand, from cramping up and getting strained. I was very disappointed and on the verge of giving up when I thought, “Well, how do one-handed people crochet?” This wasn’t a completely ridiculous question since adaptations and assistive technologies for one-handed and one-armed people have been developed for every activity under the sun that they can be. So that was my next query for the “Google box” and, though the relevant results were still small, I did get some useful information. The most helpful and relevant sources I found were the following:

http://knittingandcrochetingonehanded.blogspot.com/2011/05/knitting-and-crocheting-one-handed.html

http://www.abledata.com/abledata.cfm?pageid=19327&top=15710&ksectionid=19327&productid=74168&trail=0&discontinued=0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000UBFE1Y/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000UBFE1Y&linkCode=as2&tag=croc05a-20

 

http://www.amazon.com/Edmunds-6111-Universal-Craft-Stand/dp/B000YZ7M0W/ref=pd_sim_sbs_hpc_6?ie=UTF8&refRID=010PQDP9CKSV31F4DP01

 

http://www.amazon.com/CLOTILDE-TH-100-Third-Hand-Sewing/dp/B00CDB5DMY/ref=sr_1_7?s=arts-crafts&ie=UTF8&qid=1416365299&sr=1-7&keywords=clamp+it

 

http://www.abledata.com/abledata.cfm?pageid=19327&top=15710&ksectionid=19327&productid=79384&trail=0&discontinued=0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As was true of the results for my first search, the first two sources only relate to replacing the hand that holds the hook (the right hand). Nonetheless, they made me wonder if there was a holding device that would hold the work instead of the hook.

This line of thought led me to the third and fourth sources which were still not what I wanted, but helped me to better visualize what I had in mind. I wanted to find something that would hold crochet work instead of embroidery work. No such thing exists, BUT the “third hand” product from the fifth source was mentioned in an article and it was almost perfect! I just needed a larger clamp and no elastic band but an adjustable neck instead.

 

I bought some cell phone holders online that clamped onto tables like binder clips do, had flexible necks, and had wide “claws” that looked like they would hold my work on each of its sides (pictured above). Unfortunately, they are a bit larger than I anticipated so bending them to the right distance apart is difficult. And the “claws” do not hold on tightly enough to the work so that it’s taut and I can push the crochet hook through. I’m still trying to find a way to create what I see in my mind. This version of the “third hand”–http://www.amazon.com/Stitching-Helper-Hemming-Embroidery-Sewing/dp/B004QJ3LSE/ref=pd_sbs_ac_4?ie=UTF8&refRID=0WRMWXMJWW5PCWW5BRKM–is much closer and though it still has a small clamp for the work, that should be good enough for holding the row I am currently working on. I may buy two of these and see if I’m right…

 

The last source in the list, Kroh’s Crochet Aid, was particularly helpful. Though it does not hold the work, it still provides a way to take some of the pressure off of your yarn-holding hand, which is also the goal of having a tool hold the work for you altogether. My husband saw the picture and knew that we could make this ourselves, and he did. We got some velcro from WalMart and he adjusted it to fit around my wrist and sewed a simple key ring to it for the yarn to go through. I use an additional key ring around my index finger. You can see how I use it and if you’re a crochet person, you’ll know how it differs from the standard.

Invisible Zee Crochet AidInvisible Zee Crochet Aid 3

 

 

 

 

 

Invisible Zee Crochet Aid 2Invisible Zee Crochet Aid 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

This contraption works perfectly! I don’t have to crook my finger around the running yarn and instead of holding the work between my middle finger and thumb, I hold it between my index finger and thumb. This keeps me from holding it too tightly with my thumb, I think because my index finger is stronger than my middle finger and more used to holding things. And an added benefit has been that I maintain a more even tension and therefore make more even stitches. I also crochet very tightly, but the device helps me to loosen up a little and thus more easily match the given gauge of a project. It even lets me “hold” multiple colors at the same time.

It has been an immense relief to find something that enabled me to continue crocheting without causing myself harm and negating its purpose. Even if I don’t go forward with finding something to hold my work as well, I’m happy with what I have right now!

If you’re a crocheter with a health issue that crocheting potentially exacerbates, what adaptations have you been able to use to improve your situation?

Right Shoulder Pain FINALLY Diagnosed!!!

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At last I know what’s wrong with my shoulder and what I should do about it! I’ve had acute, sharp, and sore pain in my right shoulder since April 2014 without any inciting injury. Insurance screw-ups stalled my ability to get in to see an orthopedic surgeon but finally I did. After getting my MRI done (which my doctor wouldn’t order for some reason unless I saw the ortho doc first…), I now know that a bone spur is poking into my rotator cuff tendon causing tendinitis (or is it tendinosis?) and bursitis, which further causes problems by narrowing the space between muscle and bone that the tendon has to go through.

The orthopedist recommends surgery. He says it’ll be a quick and easy surgery with a couple of incisions where he’ll clean out inflamed tissue and remove the bone spur. He even said I’d be able to drive with that arm the next day or so, though I will have to do a little physical therapy. Nonetheless, I am a bit alarmed because I have NEVER had surgery (I don’t really count my wisdom teeth removal) nor broken any bones or had any kind of major injury. Chronic pain has been my thing for years but now I’m faced with tangible problems and fixes. It’s weird and I’m not sure how I’m reacting to the whole thing. Glad I got diagnosed though and that a real and known problem was found.

I’ve also made progress on my knee problem. I’ve started physical therapy and am doing home exercises to strengthen the muscles on the left side of my knee so that my knee cap moves over the center rather than the right side, where it puts more pressure on the cartilage and bone. It’s only been 2 weeks, but already I feel a difference in knee pain so I’m grateful for that.

The really scary thing is, I might (and probably already am, judging by how it feels) develop the same problem in my left shoulder. Not to mention I think I might have the same issue in my left knee as in my right knee. I just keep on breaking down. Just like a well-used car, I fix one problem, and another issue springs up! Eventually you would give up on the car, but we chronic pain sufferers DO NOT have that option.

In the words of Commander Peter Quincy Taggert in Galaxy Quest:  “Never give up. Never surrender.” And I do not intend to ever stop fighting the pain and its effect on my life! I will persevere and continue working towards better management of my illness and improved quality of life.

 

Forced Hiatus

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I have been forced to go on hiatus (or hibernation, really) for the past couple of weeks because of a flare-up of fatigue. It’s times like these when I wonder whether or not I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, whether instead of FMS or along with it. I often consider this muscle-withering, spirit-sapping, energy-eradicating, and brain-muffling fatigue to be much worse and more difficult to deal with than the pain. At least with the pain, I have a chance to work through it or maybe only experience a flare in one body part. But with fatigue, my whole body is encased in and weighed down by exhaustion. And depression and lowered self-worth soon follow. They say that misery loves company. Well, so does fatigue! I finally broke down last night and cried a bit. But my husband was there and comforted me and reassured me how much he appreciates and values me and everything I do for him/us. Nonetheless, I still feel fairly useless…

But, I know better than to become mired down in such negative feelings because not only do they not make the situation any better but also emotional stress leads to increased pain and fatigue, which I DEFINITELY do not want to happen. So, my husband and I have resolved to have a frank and proactive discussion about adjustments we can make to make weekdays easier for the both of us. And hopefully, my appointment with the rheumatologist, which should be set up soon, will give me some options for treating my fatigue.

I also have trouble with this particular symptom because when it’s this bad, I can barely get out of bed to manage my basic needs. The cycle of negative thoughts and self-image is perpetuated by this lack of self-care and further feeds the depression and fatigue and inactivity.

How can I fix this or help myself do better during these times? Well, I have noticed recently that sometimes when I’m fatigued but still attempt to do something I need to get done, I don’t feel much more tired afterwards as I always expect to. Part of what prevents me from getting out of bed is the fear that activity will only make me feel more tired and worsen my muscle aches and soreness. But in such instances as the one mentioned before, I know this not to be true, at least most of the time. So, I’m determined to train myself not to have that negative mentality and to make myself accomplish one good, useful thing a day. And when my “fatigue-self” protests, I can tell it that I have all the rest of the day, hours, to “recuperate” from the activity and so it shouldn’t complain!!

Plus, accomplishing one activity usually spurs an emotional boost, which can give one the motivation to get something else done. But as long as you only focus on one thing at a time, you aren’t overwhelmed and bogged down by the stress and pressure of all the myriad chores, errands, and activities that you need to do.

I think that the first step to overcoming fatigue that you can do on your own, is re-train your thinking and stop negative thoughts in their tracks. Give yourself credit for even the littlest things you have been able to accomplish and focus on one thing at a time. Doing this helps me to not feel so overwhelmed and I’ve just gotten away from it lately. Also, do things that help take your mind off of your inactivity–read an exciting book, watch an uplifting show or movie, do a hobby (like crocheting) that does not require the use of your entire body–and help keep you encouraged and positive. Prayer and spiritual reflection comfort and strengthen me while reading dramatic sci-fi novels, watching British mystery shows, and crocheting help to distract me. What successful steps have you taken to stem the effects of fatigue?

The Joys (and Downsides) of Crocheting

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Courtesy of Invisible Zee

Courtesy of Invisible Zee

Lately I’ve been trying to decide what I can do while I’m laying or sitting around, other than watch Netflix. Even though I’m fatigued, I can only sleep so much, so I end up awake but unable to actually do anything useful. Plus, I’ve developed the habit of always needing to move some part of my body because standing or sitting still 1) makes my pain “louder” since nothing’s distracting me and 2) increases my pain and stiffness. If I’m not moving or doing something, therefore, I usually end up snacking, which provides a repetitive and ongoing action for my hands. My snack of choice for the last several months has been Sour Patch Kids (SPK). And I’m being generous in calling it a snack because it’s just candy and does not fall into any food group. Obviously, eating a bag of SPK a day is unhealthy so I figured I could give my hands something else to do so that I wouldn’t turn to SPK or other snacks. I wanted it to be something constructive and useful but something that wouldn’t tire me out either. So, I decided to learn how to crochet.

And let me tell you, crocheting is absolutely the new love of my life, after God, my husband, and my mother of course! 🙂 I didn’t really expect to enjoy it this much but I’m completely enthralled by it. It gives my hands a useful compulsion to engage in and I can make things that have actual functionality! BUT, I’ve noticed that after a couple of hours of pretty continuous crocheting, the knuckles in my fingers that are closest to my nails and the muscles and joints connecting my thumbs to my palms are pretty sore. And it doesn’t help that, as a beginner, I sometimes make my stitches to tight and that makes it hard to push the hook through. And as someone who’s always held pens and pencils very tightly, I tend to hold the tools and fabric tighter and tighter until eventually even my shoulders have hunched up. I periodically remember to relax and loosen up, but I never fail to tense up again. I’m hoping that once I get better at it, I won’t make it so hard to push the hook through my work, but I don’t know how to retrain myself not to tense up. I’ll have to do some investigating into alternatives and aids, but in the meantime, I’m still in love with crocheting and won’t be giving it up despite the downsides. It’s still better than stuffing my face with SPK and chips!

As for the fatigue, I’m hoping that a rheumatologist can help me with that, but I’m still caught up in trying to get my shoulder issue diagnosed and physical therapy for my knee started. As always, though, I will keep trudging on, with Jehovah God’s help and the support of my family.

Shoulder Pain, Shoulder Pain and More Shoulder Pain…

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Went to my chiropractor today for my bi-weekly tune-up and I am not a happy camper. Ever since my right shoulder started hurting back around the beginning of May 2014, it hasn’t gone away since. Insurance issues have prevented me from pursuing a diagnosis but hopefully that will change soon because it’s getting worse again–in the beginning, it was really bad and I could barely move or use my arm, but after some time it sort of calmed down and stayed at a constant pain level. Anyway, I had my chiropractor, Kenna–who has been a real lifesaver–, work a bit more than usual on my shoulder. Good lord! did it hurt. If I hadn’t learned a long time ago not to cry when I was in pain, I would have been in tears. Now, I’ve got a deep ache in my shoulder that extends up into my neck on that side. Even my elbow is hurting! Kenna says the nature of my personal brand of fibromyalgia is roaming inflammation that makes the affected areas more susceptible to injury and strain. Go figure <eye roll>. The only thing that’s really helped is Sombra Warm Therapy Natural Pain Relieving Gel. (There’s also a cold version but cold is my trigger.) The active ingredients are camphor 3% and menthol 3%, and even I know that these are the two biggest analgesics in muscle creams. So obviously the gel really tingles a lot, which in and of itself is a distraction from the pain, but it also seems to penetrate enough to break the rise in pain I am experiencing for a little while. I’ll definitely be putting some on my shoulder and neck before bed tonight!

No matter how much I resent the pain that my chiropractic appointments temporarily give me, that’ll never make me say it was all for nought. My improvement since starting to see Kenna last summer is undeniable. As you know, I am far from knowledgeable about any of this medical stuff (hence the newbie blog), so I used to believe the rumors that chiropractic was a sham and did more harm than good. But at the prodding of my mother, who has a lot of experience and knowledge in that regard, I took a chance. And I haven’t looked back since!

Of course, chiropractic isn’t for everyone, but since my pain leads to repetitive muscle tension and guarding, my skeleton/joints is/are constantly pulled out of alignment, giving birth to a vicious cycle of muscle pain and stiffness and joint pain. The only way to “fix” that is to realign the skeleton and joints. Though this is only temporary due to muscle memory and constant pain, I have noticed a difference in how I feel between appointments versus how I felt before I started.

That’s my limited take on chiropractic so I promise to do some real research online and offline and compile my findings all into one post. In the meantime, please feel free to add your two cents (no cursing or slanderous language please or your comment will be deleted) or correct me 🙂