Quilting Pain Relief

Got pain? Me too. I debated even writing this post, since usually I like to post finished quilts and projects here, but I figured what the heck. I love quilting. A little too much. Clearly. But lately I haven't been getting much done because I've been in quite a lot of pain. So I have been taking a little break. I pulled out my favorite book of all time...The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies...to once again fix my poor, self-abused little body. With all this extra time on my hands that is not being spent quilting, I started wondering if other quilters have some of the same problems I do. I am on the computer a lot. I design on the computer and look for inspiration online...I click the mouse a million times. Sometimes I sit for a couple of hours in the same position at the computer and then wonder why my shoulder is killing me and my arm is half-numb. I have poor posture in general but especially at the sewing machine and I rarely pay attention to "ergonomics". Honestly, long arm quilting sometimes hurts my neck and back so much that I have to stop after every row and take a break. I'm just the kind of person who will keep working on something I am excited about (which includes ALL quilting activities) until my body is screaming at me to STOP!! And then I work a little longer because I just have to finish this one more thing...

When I was younger, I could quilt all day and night, wake up in the morning with no ill effects and do it all again the next day. Now, at the ripe old age of 30, it doesn't quite work that way. I am sure it doesn't help that now I also carry small children around all day, am chronically sleep deprived (surely all mothers of young children can relate), and don't exercise nearly enough. But my quilting is where I do a lot of the damage--or at least where I notice the pain the most.  Hopefully no one else has pain like this. Hopefully everyone else is smarter (or more disciplined?), in better shape, etc. than I am. But if not, then maybe this info will help someone! 

The book I use to find and treat my muscle pain is based on the idea that the place that hurts is not always the place causing the pain. Trigger points (basically little knots) in muscles can cause pain to be referred to other parts of the body. For example, there are muscles in the arms and even the neck that, when afflicted with trigger points, can cause hand and finger pain. Trigger points can be effectively treated with massage, but sometimes the hard part is finding the ones that are causing the problem. This book shows where to find them. It gives lots of illustrations and information to help find the trigger points and tips on effective massage to eliminate them. This knowledge has totally been a lifesaver for me! If you want the back story to all this, keep reading, if not skip to the bottom for links and other info.

Shortly after I got married and while I was finishing my last year of college, I worked in a call center. I was on the computer the entire time I was at work. I was stressed out all the time. I had also recently developed a really fun and exciting anxiety disorder (with panic attacks--oh joy!) --anyway...I was constantly tense and had headaches and backaches and weird sensations (prickleys) in my arms all the time. Being poor and newly married to a med student I didn't feel like I could just run to the doctor for every little ache and pain so I was popping pills a lot, but they didn't fix anything. I was bordering on miserable. So I started searching online for something, anything, that would help. One slow night at work I was looking online and I found a post on a random website that mentioned a book about fixing your own pain with massage. So I wrote down the name of the book and went to the library and checked it out on my way up to school the next day. After classes, I was waiting in the library for my husband to finish his studying, so I sat down to read about trigger points and referred pain--things I had never heard of before. After skimming the introduction, I started reading the section on head and neck pain, since those were my biggest complaints. 

The very first page of that section talked about the sternocleidomastoid muscle (front/side of the neck) and how trigger points in this muscle could be responsible for a lot of headaches. It would never have occurred to me that a random neck muscle could be causing my headaches. So I just gave mine a squeeze to see if I could find it. It was so painful I couldn't believe it--I never even knew that muscle existed since my neck had never actually hurt there. I massaged it for a minute and almost immediately my headache diminished. I sat there and just cried! Finally I had found something that gave me hope that I wouldn't be hurting for the rest of my life. I started looking for trigger points in other places as shown in the book and I found them almost everywhere! I was amazed at all the things I could fix...stiff fingers, sore neck and back, sore legs, feet, --pretty much anything...and how simple it sometimes was if I knew where to look! It was so exciting! After renewing the book at the library 2 or 3 times, I finally just bought my own copy and have used it over and over again many times since to remedy all my little aches and pains. 

(This book is pretty easy to use...find where your pain is using the illustration on the right, then the left side gives page numbers/muscles to look at for the specific referral areas)

Now obviously, I wasn't cured...because here I am again...in pain. Well as long as I am stressed out, abuse my muscles, etc., the trigger points come back. So I have to keep working on it...but I guess it's just like anything else in life...if I clean my quilting room today, it will probably be messy again by next week unless I just don't use it or learn how to keep it clean. Even with all this knowledge of how to fix myself...I inevitably just go and go until I am in all kinds of pain again before I ever do anything about it. But so far, self massage using the information in this book has never failed to reduce or eliminate my muscle pain. And I guarantee it has saved me THOUSANDS in medical costs. Thousands that I am sure I would have spent if I'd had them. I know this doesn't cure everything. There are legitimate injuries and diseases that trigger point therapy will not fix. I'm sure there are lots of skeptics and critics of this book, and that's fine...I know there are other trigger point books and sites that say a lot of different things. I am not a doctor and I'm not here to argue the best method for massage, or what works or doesn't work the best. I'm just saying that this has worked amazingly well for me, and if it works for someone else, great, and if not, well...? Oh well. If you're in pain, it's definitely worth a try!
Check your local library for a copy, check out this website, or hit amazon...it costs a little more than a good quality yard of fabric ;) 

And just in case anyone is wondering --(I know I would be wondering)--no one paid me to write this. Hope it is helpful!!