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Could the movements of my fingers when I knit affect arthritis?

Q) Could you please advise me whether or not any research findings have been published suggesting that the fine and repetitious movements in knitting would worsen or improve the symptoms of arthritis in the hands and elbows?
Judy, Ipswich, Suffolk (Spring 2010)

A) There's a wealth of evidence relating fine and repetitious movement to pain in the upper limb, mostly the forearms. There's more evidence relating to arm posture, such as keeping the wrist bent in the same position for hours. However, this is most likely muscular pain, not arthritis. For people with pre-existing arthritis there's little research evidence to rely on. My patients with arthritis of the hands often mention that knitting and sewing have become difficult, if not impossible, and we do as much as we can to enable people to get back to this activity. So, to answer your question, there are very few research findings on this subject but I'd encourage you to keep going with this activity if possible. If you're finding it difficult ask your local rheumatology team for help.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Spring 2010 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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