Anyone who is artistic or crafty knows first hand that being creative is beneficial. The challenge of designing and creating projects builds self-esteem. Creative activity increases learning, brain development and provides healthy stimulation of feel-good dopamine receptors. Studies have shown that creative activity offers similar benefits as meditation. Crafting in particular has benefited prison inmates and has been shown to improve performance at work.
But while creative activity may be good for our minds, our enthusiasm can cause us to overlook the effect the medium has on our bodies, particularly if our practice involves tight or repetitive motions. Dancers, writers, musicians and knitters alike know the pain of carpel tunnel or repetitive stress. Injury from creative work is especially frustrating since that activity also gives us so much joy.
I have struggled with repetitive stress off and on for 20+ years. At first the pain was so crippling I could hardly use my hands. Even gentle activity like watercolor painting wasn’t possible. Fortunately I received medical attention and my interest in health and nutrition helped to reduced my symptoms over time. I can now engage in intense activities such as knitting, crochet, and gardening if I respect the following guidelines:
Correct posture, stretching and exercise are critical for injury prevention and recovery. Little adjustments like proper back support and dropping your shoulders back and down as you work can prevent problems from developing in the first place. Consult a physical therapist for stretches that are the best for you.
Allow time for rest and recovery. Your body must heal from intense activity before it can handle more. This means getting at least 8 hours of sleep at night and scheduling rest days to prevent burn out. It may be frustrating to not being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, but it sure beats not being able to do anything at all. Your body is the boss of how much you can do, not your desire to do more.
Diet can make a huge difference in how prone you are to inflammation. Drink plenty of water, eat your vegetables and consider introducing ginger and cold water fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel) to your diet. In addition to avoiding obvious junk foods like soda, plants in the nightshade family such as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are common irritants, as are mangos and cashews which are related to poison oak. If you believe you react negatively to a mystery food, you can try the Whole 30 diet which involves eliminating the most common problematic foods and slowly introducing them one by one to see how they effect you.