Ask Me Anything – Hand Health

“Don’t Your Hands Hurt?!”

I often get asked if all the sewing I do makes my hands hurt at night.

I normally answer with the short answer, “Not really”, and then about my day. Today I thought I would share the tips that I use to keep my hands from hurting.

I spend several hours at a time sitting and crocheting, and while I enjoy it I often worry about what my body is going to feel and look like in 5 years. My main concern is the use of my thumbs, wrist and elbows, as losing use of them by the time I’m 30 would be a disaster!

Below is a short list of the things I do to keep my hands in good shape. (Note: I have absolutely NO medical background and these tips are only coming from my own personal experience. I have spoken with doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists about this, but only in informal ways. These tips are my personal opinion and what works for me. Always see a doctor if you feel pain!)

– I try to sit somewhere comfortable, but not slouch-inducing. Sitting up straight keeps my elbows and wrists in line, thus reducing the stress on my arms. If I can I usually will put a pillow under my left elbow for support.

– I crochet quite loosely now, but I didn’t when I first started. As I got started I noticed that my hands would start to hurt after just an hour or so when I was crocheting tightly, but that if I loosened up a bit there was no discomfort. I concentrated on loosening up my stitches and now that’s just naturally how I sew. When I occasionally work on amigurumi  the tight stitches hurt my hands, which is why I don’t do it often, even though I love it!

-I don’t sit for hours at a time, I try to break up my sewing time. As you read in last weeks post I try to work my schedule so that I only am sitting for 3-4 hours at a time, at the very most. Usually after 2 hours of sitting I will try to take a break and walk around the block, or get some housework done.

– If I feel ANY discomfort I take a break immediately and ice my hands. This may seem extreme, but pain is rare for me so I take it seriously. If icing doesn’t help I’ve been known to take 2-3 days off from sewing before going back. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac about my hands, but I think that’s better then running them into the ground just so I can get an extra hour of work in a day.

– STRETCH YOUR WRISTS!

One-Arm-Assisted-Wrist-Stretch I found this great article 2 years ago, when my business was about 6 months old. It has some simple stretches you can do to ‘help prevent carpal tunnel’. Since I can barely touch my toes I can’t do the third one very well, but I do the first 2 a LOT throughout the day.

– Last but not least, I take Fish Oil tablets pretty regularly, as well as my daily mutli-vitamin. Fish Oil is supposedly an anti-inflammatory, in addition to a having a lot of other health benefits. If you talk to your doctor and decide to take Fish Oil just be sure to get the ‘No Fish Burps’ variety. Trust me, you’ll thank me. And so will whoever you’re smooching.

And that’s what I do to take care of my hands! In addition, I also try very hard to take care of my body.

Sitting all day is bad for your body, and especially hard on my legs. If I don’t exercise 2 days in a row I can really feel it in my legs by the end of the 48 hours. So what to do about it?

I exercise 5-6 days a week, for at least an hour a day. Hubs and I usually walk 3 miles 5-6 evenings a week, which is great because then I start and end my day with exercise.

Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping your hands, wrists or elbows in tip-top shape? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Ask me Anything!

Every so often I get an email from someone interested in knowing how I run my business. Day to day routine, how I store things, how I still have a life, etc. I’ve always wondered the same thing about OTHER business owners, and I’ve decided it’s time to find out!

I’m pleased to announce the beginning of TWO new weekly blog columns. Starting next Tuesday I will post an interview with a different home-based small-business owner each week, and starting today, each Friday I will answer one of the frequently asked questions I get asked often.

If you have a question to ask me, or know a small-business owner you think I should interview just let me know and I will do my best! So here we go…

ask me anything

 “What do you do all day?”

The most common people ask me is how I structure my day! I design patterns, sell finished products and manage all my online stores/blogs and ads.

A bit of background before I get to my actual schedule. I am married to a wonderful man who is just finishing his first year as a Junior High teacher and works a LOT. We don’t have any kids yet, so I am home alone often and get a lot of work done in a day. I write this hoping that others with kids at home, or those who work part or full time outside of the home will NOT compare themselves. Hopefully soon I will be dealing with running a business and having a baby running around, but for now it’s just us J

6:00-6:30

Try to get up. I am NOT a morning person, so some days I’m successful, others I’m in bed until 7:30. On the days I’m successful I spend the early morning on the computer, looking for new crochet blogs to follow, marketing through Facebook and replying to emails. This is also when I usually do my blog-writing (It’s 6:30 as I’m writing this, so today was a good day!)

8:00-11:00

I ride my bike to the gym sometime between 8 and 8:30, depending on how caught up I get writing or marketing! I take some sort of class at the gym every morning for an hour. I love to spin and I take a weights class as well. On the weekends I run. I’m usually at the gym for about an hour and a half, which might sound like a long time, but honestly, this is the majority of my social interaction for the day. I have some great friends there that I take classes with daily, and I really love it. By 11:00 I’m home and showered.

11:00-3:00

These are main ‘sit down and crochet’ hours. I always have a big master list of what I need to get done before my next craft show or to send to the store I sell my hats at. When I have a show coming up I make myself a schedule, figuring out how many hats I should be able to make a day and then planning what days I will make them on. Right now I’m getting ready for a show in June and have committed myself to making 4 hats a day for the next 5 weeks. I often will do an extra 1 or 2 every day so that if something comes up in the future I don’t get behind schedule.

3:00-4:00

Back to the computer to check on emails again. This is also when I start working on patterns. If I’m not working on writing a new pattern at the time then I’m usually working on updating an old pattern.

4:00-6:00

Hubs usually gets home around 4:00 and goes straight to lesson planning for the next day, so I’m off the computer and back to sewing. I try to use this time to work on new patterns, but if I’m feeling like I’m in a design funk then I usually go back to making hats. I try not to force myself to be creative when I’m not feeling it, and I never know when the mood will strike, so the more ahead of schedule I get then the more time I can take off to design later when I’m feeling crafty!

6:00-12:00

Hubs is usually done with school stuff by dinner, so after eating we go on a long walk, or to the pool. Sometimes we pop some popcorn and watch a movie. Mostly we just do something together. He’s usually tired and in bed by 9:00 and on days that I was up at 6:00 I go to bed with him and read for a bit. On days I slept in I usually stay up and do my computer stuff that I should have done in the morning!

So that’s a typical day. Sometimes I go out to lunch with friends, or babysit a friends kids so they can go grocery shopping, but I don’t have a car, so I can’t go far. Often Hubs will have more work to do after 6:00 and I spend more time crocheting in the evening. I always get work done on the weekends too, but there’s really not typical schedule to it, it’s just whenever we don’t have something going on! Hubs works a lot on the weekends, but we try to do something fun on Saturday, even if it’s only for an hour or two.

What can YOU take away?

My biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to run their own business is to try to structure your day so that you don’t get burned out. I have a hard time sitting for more then 4 hours doing the same thing, so I don’t. I break up the way that I work so that I get to do multiple things a day. I also do things this way to give my hands a break. I have no evidence for this, but I can’t imagine it’s good to keep your hands busy with repetitive motions for 10 hours straight.

You may also notice that I spend most of my day sitting. I’m an active person, so all the sitting can be hard for me, which is why going to the gym everyday is important for me. I bike there and then jog for about 30 minutes before my hour-long class starts and then bike home. Unless Hubs and I go on a long walk in the evening (which we do about 75% of the time) I don’t get a lot of movement during the day, and I can feel a huge difference at the end of the day. Even just walking down the street for 10 minutes makes a difference. Be sure to take care of yourself so that you can keep doing what you love!

So that’s it for the first “Ask Me Anything!” If you have a question you’d like me to answer leave a comment or email me and I will try to get to it! Come back tomorrow for a round-up of homemade Mothers Day Gifts!