Photo of Bed-ridden wounded, knitting. Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D.C …
Many knitters say you can ‘forget’ pain when you knit, even those suffering from severe pain say it’s effective. There are many studies trying to understand the intriguing relationship between the physical and cognitive aspects of chronic pain and how these interplay and intertwine to change the amount of pain you actually feel. Research has shown some fascinating facts about your brain and pain in recent years. The signals that travel up to your brain from an injured area do so as pain inducing signals, these have to be interpreted by your brain before you actually feel pain. Now comes the interesting bit. Researchers have also found that your brain can’t concentrate on two things at the time. So if you occupy your brain with an activity that is absorbing enough to cancel out the pain signals, then your brain won’t interpret those pain inducing signals. As a result you’ll feel less pain and in some situations none at all! Knitting can quite literally take your mind off pain.
This process is called Distraction and can be effective for blocking out pain and other troubling thoughts. It can also help people to manage the feelings of nausea following chemotherapy. To add to this researchers have also found that signals passing down from your brain to an area of your spinal column called the Pain Gate can influence the opening/closing of this gateway. If it is open, all the pain inducing signals will pass. If it is partially closed, or closed, only some or none of the signals will pass. Your attitude and mood are significant in influencing this. So by making you feel good and raising mood your knitting could be helping you manage your pain in this way too!
Knitting can change negative thoughts and attitudes into positive ones. It encourages people to move forwards. Confidence, self esteem, motivation and mood improves. It gives people a vehicle by which to make social contact and, in so doing, keeps their world open.
For those of us who are fit and healthy, knitting is an effective stress management tool that we can take into the workplace.