What happens when the knitter is in so much pain that even lifting the needles hurts? When even typing in the knitters blog can only be done with one arm? When simply fully eftending your arm causes you to cry out in pain?
On Monday, I was diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis. This is a long way of saying “tennis elbow” or in my case “knitter’s elbow”. Such a happy phrase for what causes an imense amount of pain and frustration.
I went to the orthopedist after experiencing pain on the lateral side of my elbow which radiated down my arm and at times into my neck. Shockingly, knitting did not hurt at all. I tend to be a “picker” not a “thrower” in my knitting style. The urgent care orthopedist I went to declared my arm “sore from over use” and told me to take some naproxin and it would get better. It did not get better.
As each day passed, it became worse. Lifting anything heavier than a ball of worsted weight yarn sent shooting pain down my arm and into my neck. I called and made an apointment with a specialsist.
Today, I saw the wonderful man who specializes in injuries of the upper extremities. After examining me he stated that had lateral epicondyltis with ligament, muscle and nerve damage and suggested a cocktail.
When a bartender suggests a cocktail, you should smile and say yes please. When an orthopedic doctor suggests a cortozone cocktail you should run fast, long and hard.
The nurse returned with what could only be described as a pipeline with a tube aattached, a numbing spray, a small vial of betadine, and five vials of different liquids. I signed the consent form and pulled up unsual knitting projects on my phone to keep my mind occupied lets I run for the nearest exit or make a new one in the wall cartoon style. Especially after the doctor said that my high tolllerance to pain would come in handy at this moment.
After humming through the injection (humming is my way of centering myself when I am in pain), he bandaged my arm and sent me home with an appointment for a month later and instructions to rest it. Oh, and put down the knitting needles.
On the way home, I almost started crying. How can I live without knitting? Knitting for me is more than just a pasion, love, art or even a way to produce fun gifts. For me knitting is my therapy.
I have told people in a joking way that I knit so that I do not kill people. There is a lot of truth to that saying for me. As a person with an anxiety disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and PTSD, knitting calms me and resets my brain like nothing else can.
There is much research to support the idea of knitting as therapy. One would think that OCD and knitting would not go together, however the repetative action has a calming effect on the brain.
The act of knitting calms the brain by creating within the mind a specific type of focus called “flow”. In flow, the person performing the operation is fully immersed in the activity of enjoyment and has a full feeling of energized focus. While in “flow” the person is able to pay complete attention to the activity and the feeling of joy derived from that activity and is able to channel the emotions into that activity which creates a since of calm due to the release of dopamine. Doing the activity on a regular basis actually trains and resets the brain to be able to release dopamine overtime thus helping to eliviate depression, stress and anxiety.
So for me, knitting not only produces lovely things for myself, my friends, and the community at large, it actually resets my brain and heals my mind and soul. Without it, my brain runs wild and hyperfocus on fear and sadness. It is like a run away train that can not be stopped or turned plowing through a beautiful town, tearing down and destroying everything in its path. Knitting may not be able to stop the train for me entirely, but it does have a wonderful way of waking up the engeneer and causing him to pay attention to the beauty of the town as he slows the train to a reasonable speed.
I NEED to knit. I knit so that my brain remains healthy. My body hurts but my brain needs to knit.