Before I dig into muscles, I want to remind the reader that I am not a doctor and cannot provide you with a diagnosis. If you are experiencing any problems with your hands that concern you, please talk to your family doctor or see a specialist.
Muscle fatigue is a serious concern that many spinners aren’t aware of or don’t pay attention to. It not only affects your work in the moment, but can affect your ability to spin in the future. It does not present in the same way that muscle fatigue in other areas of the body presents. When you run, your legs become sore and ache. When you lift weights, your arms become sore. But when your hands are tired, they don’t become sore in the way that your larger muscles do.
The first sign you have hand muscle fatigue is usually clumsiness. Do you keep dropping your spindle? Does your yarn keep drifting apart even though you had no problems earlier? Are you unable to draft as evenly as you were before?
According to Abby Franquemont, the average spinner can spin for approximately two to three minutes before hand exhaustion sets in.
Let me say that again – you can spin for two to three minutes before hand exhaustion sets in.
Two to three minutes isn’t much, but this is why small breaks are so important. Take a moment to get a drink. Stand up and stretch. Change the television channel. Small breaks between short spinning spurts make it possible for you to keep working. This is the key to building up stamina.
Ignoring muscle fatigue and your need to rest can also lead to other, more serious problems.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is well known by name, but many people don’t have a clear understanding of what it is. The carpal ligament crosses your wrist and the 8 carpal bones. Between the bones and the ligament is a space through which the median nerve travels to your first four fingers. This space is the carpal tunnel.
When the carpal ligament becomes swollen or inflamed from repetitive motion or over-exertion, the tunnel between the ligament and bones becomes narrower. This creates pressure and squeezes the median nerve, which results in reduced nerve function: tingling fingers, numbness, the feeling of an electrical shock, and/or temporary or permanent loss of sensation.
Like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is another problem for spinners to keep their eyes on. The Cubital tunnel is located near the elbow and creates a pathway for the Ulnar nerve, which feeds into the little finger and ring ringer. Again, with repetitive motion and overuse, the Cubital tunnel swells, narrows, and restricts the Ulnar nerve. If you are feeling symptoms in just your little finger or along the outside edge of your palm, you may be experiencing Cubital Tunnel Syndrome.
If I experience symptoms of either of these, I set my spinning or knitting aside and take a break. I usually break for two to three days, immediately, even if I’m excited about a project. I often finish up a long day of spinning with a warm hand soak and massage to ease muscle tension and encourage my hand muscles to rest. Without proper care, these issues can lead to permanent nerve damage. I want to be able to use my hands for years to come.