Why Do My Hands Get Numb When I Knit?

Settling in with a fluffy ball of yarn and the sound of busy knitting needles is a soothing pastime for a winter evening. Explore how this popular hobby can sometimes be affected by carpal tunnel symptoms.



Many enjoy the relaxing pastime of knitting, whether it’s a winter hat for a grandchild, blanket for a newborn, or something completely new and imaginative. For some avid knitters, hand numbness and pain from the repetitive use can get in the way.

Hand tingling, pain, and cramps are symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel can cause your hands to feel swollen and numb. It can feel as though your blood circulation is cut off, but the source of the problem is the inflamed nerve, not the blood supply. When the nerve becomes inflamed, the sensory and motor function is affected.

To treat symptoms, often we’ll start with the patient wearing a brace at night. The brace has a hard surface on the palm of the hand and wrist, and prevents wrist bending. Night bracing keeps your wrists in an anatomical resting position. When you sleep, you can unconsciously hold your wrist in a harmful position. People tend to sleep in a curled position with their wrists bent—they are straining the nerve without being aware of what they are doing. Bracing prevents you from further compressing the nerve while sleeping.

It takes time for a night brace to alleviate carpal tunnel symptoms. We frequently recommend wearing braces for approximately six weeks. If symptoms have not resolved within that period of time, steroid injections may help relieve the inflammation. If injections do not relieve symptoms for an adequate period of time, or if symptoms are severe, carpal tunnel surgery may be considered to release the tissue that is compressing the nerve.

The good news is that carpal tunnel doesn’t have to get in the way of your favorite hobby, especially when it is addressed early. If you experience symptoms, talk with your doctor.


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