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Thread: Anyone else suffer from neck and shoulder pain while sewing?

  1. #1
    Member Geisha Girl's Avatar
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    Anyone else suffer from neck and shoulder pain while sewing?

    I suffer terrible neck pain after a good few hours behind the machine and my shoulders tend to seize up as well.

    Anyone else suffer from this?

    Any tips on how to ease the pain or prevent it??

  2. #2
    Senior Member Connie M.'s Avatar
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    My pain is not terrible, but my neck and shoulders do seize up when I sew for hours. I find that a good chair the right height helps a lot. Also it helps to stop and do a few neck rotations, and shoulder shrugs every half hour or so too. I try to get up every so often too. Just sitting for a long time hurts my back as well as my neck. Hope this helps you. Sewing is too important and fun to give it up. It is worth finding what works for you to ease your owies.

  3. #3
    Senior Member auniqueview's Avatar
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    I have neck and rotator damage, so I am good for about 20 minutes at the machine before the pain really starts setting in. I have to get up and move around for a while, relax on the couch a bit before going before going back to it. What really gets me in the neck is leaning over the table cutting my fabric. I have tried sitting to do it, but it doesn't work as well. Any suggestions on that?
    If laughter is the best medicine, I prescribe a Dachshund or four.

  4. #4
    Senior Member jollyquilting's Avatar
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    I agree that a pain in the neck is a problem, if you will raise your chair so you llook staight on it will help, put a board to rest your dangling feet on and that might help.
    Jo

  5. #5
    Member SoSewSue's Avatar
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    Until last week I suffered neck & shoulder pain after every sewing session as well. Last Thursday I took delivery of a sewing table (SewEzi - no affiliation) and now no pain ! And I have been sewing for hours and hours as I am learning FMQ. The table, which is exactly the same height as the table I was sewing at before, allows for my machine to be recessed so it is flush with the table top. Lowering the machine those 4 or 5 inches made all the difference.

    I read somewhere that for good ergonomics, if you bend your arms so that your forearm is parallel to the floor your sewing surface should be "just" below your arm. So you end up with a very slight downward slope from your elbow to your hands at the machine. It may not make a difference to some people but it made the world of difference to me.

  6. #6
    Member SoSewSue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by auniqueview View Post
    ..... What really gets me in the neck is leaning over the table cutting my fabric. I have tried sitting to do it, but it doesn't work as well. Any suggestions on that?
    If I am doing a lot of cutting I use'bed risers' like these to raise my work table:
    http://www.target.com/p/Plastic-Bed-...f-4/-/A-729561

    and that really helps. When I want the table lowered again I just kick them out of the way.

  7. #7
    Super Member Gladys's Avatar
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    That's why I visit the chiropractor often. It makes a big difference.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Pepita's Avatar
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    I think this is a common problem. I am getting old, and like my husband get plenty of kinks! A cervical collar helps, your head is really heavy, and the heat and the support help. The other thing I have noticed is that when I start quilting I often raise my shoulders to help more the fabric etc. and it does nothing but cause lots of pain! I got a table tray thing that tilts my machine forward--Now i have one of the sew easy tables and can't use it, but it forces you to sit back in the chair. Try it, just put something about an inch high at the back of your sewing machine base, the 'table' tilts towards you, and you sit back.
    You may also try one of those back shoulder supports they sell in the quilting magazines. I don't know what they are called but it makes you have good posture.

    Don't know if any of this would help, but I don't think it would hurt to try.
    Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great. Mark Twain

  9. #9
    Senior Member Aubrey'sQuiltingCreations's Avatar
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    To have pain like this I would say the ergonimics (sorry spelling) needs to be adjusted either in your chair or table height. I worked in a corporate office and every six months they had a team of people come through and measure how you where sitting in your chair at work and would adjust chairs to make sure you where getting the best seat and posture possible. I would suggest doing some research online of how to have a friend or spouse observe how you are sitting when sewing to get an idea of how to change things to make it better for you.

  10. #10
    Super Member sewbeadit's Avatar
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    Years ago I was having quite the problems with neck and back pain. Wound up at the Chiro. He said I had pipe neck from sitting so long at the sewing machine and that after he worked on me, I could only sew for 10-15 minutes at a time and then I would have to get up and do something else and come back later and sew, etc. WEll after sewing for hours and hours every day that was hard to hear, but eventually I got better. I can go now for 30 minutes or so then have to get up and do something else. My iron is where I have to get up and walk to use it, my cutting table too is set up that way. That is the only way I will be able to sew for the rest of my life. So all you young ones out there don't sew for so many hours in a day it may hurt you later in life.
    Sewbeadit
    W. Washington

  11. #11
    Super Member AnnieH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aubrey'sQuiltingCreations View Post
    To have pain like this I would say the ergonimics (sorry spelling) needs to be adjusted either in your chair or table height. I worked in a corporate office and every six months they had a team of people come through and measure how you where sitting in your chair at work and would adjust chairs to make sure you where getting the best seat and posture possible. I would suggest doing some research online of how to have a friend or spouse observe how you are sitting when sewing to get an idea of how to change things to make it better for you.
    What a good idea. I'll get DH to observe me today. I'm stretching every hour or so but FMQ'ing makes me tense.

  12. #12
    Super Member CoventryUK's Avatar
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    Look on Youtube..there is a fantastic excercise called Static Back. This helps to realign your spine!! This was recommended by my Chiropractor and it works!!!
    Hilary

  13. #13
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    I work for at least 20 minutes then get up and do something else. So what if my sewing day is 18 hours long. It doesn't hurt that way. My old sewing table is from a factory, made of adjustable iron legs and a two inch thick top. I make sure everything is lined up and at the right height. It has made a big difference.
    Life is made up of bits and pieces. You won't know how it'll turn out till its done.

  14. #14
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    I do have a very bad problem with pain in the neck and shoulders and back when I sew but, I have those same problems whever I sit for longer than a few minutes. I have what they call stage 4 arthritis in all my joints and yesterday was told I have figromayalga on top of that. I put small blocks of wood under the back legs of my table and that seems to help. Be sure your foot peddle is in a position that does not cause any strain anywhere. Move often.
    A friend is someone who knows all about you and loves you anyway.

  15. #15
    Senior Member pinkberrykay's Avatar
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    I understand you pain. I have had shoulder and neck pain for over a decade and it is exasperated by sewing too long. I have changed my chair and am on 2 different meds for the pain. The doctor thinks I may have rotator cuff damage so I will be going for an MRI in a few days to find out whats going on.

  16. #16
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    As mentioned before this sounds issue with improperly height of sewing or cutting table. Just like when typing your arms should be bent at a angle like a "L" when you working. do a search. There were many good sugesstions about how to adjust your table to adjust to this angle. My DH cut down the legs on my table and then added a peice of double foam insulation on top and dropped my sewing machine into a hole that he cut. That allowed my arms to be at the proper angle and also gave my wrists something to rest on. I saw this method on a UTUBE video. Check under sewing table. I also take frequent breaks when quilting top of quilt. My problem seems to be moving the top around to do the quilting. My arms and shoulder can get really tired doing this. Again frequent breaks and doing shoulder excerses.

  17. #17
    Super Member AliKat's Avatar
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    First I agree, sewing can be painful to some of us. I sew only so long at a time. I do break often for exercise.

    And ... most important ... I have arranged my sewing area ergonomically. I don't use a chaqr but a Swopper, which sorta looks like an adjustable mushroom.

    My ironing board is in the other room so I do get up when I need to iron.

    Massage &/or a chiropractor is great if you can afford them.

    For me ... I adapted.

    ali
    Have fun quilting! If it isn't fun, you will miss a lot.
    ali

  18. #18
    Super Member mpspeedy's Avatar
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    I have done most of the things mentioned by other posters. My machine tilts forward, I use an office chair that is adjustable. I have a foot rest of the same height for the foot that is not using the control pedal. Everything about my sewing machine set up is designed just for me and to keep my arms and neck at the right angle to protect them. My cutting, pressing and pin basting area are actually on another floor in my house which requires me to get up and move. While I only machine quilt Linus quilts and small projects like table runners and wallhangings I do produce at least 20 Linus quilts a month so I do a bit of sewing. I have various aches and pains which were made worse by a rare autoimmune disease that I contracted in 2000. After surviving that disease that played havoc with my muscles and joints and the wear and tear of at least 45 years of sewing and quilting I am still here and still going strong. I am fortunate enough to have been a stay at home wife the majority of my 34 years of marriage so I am able to make time for my quilting passion. I still manage to read at least two or three hours each day.
    My only reacommendation is to set your sewing setup as ergonomiclly as possible. It does make a big difference.
    Trying to sew, quilt or read everyday.

  19. #19
    Senior Member DMotyl's Avatar
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    I agree with many things said... Between my own issues and seeing my mother struggle to keep sewing, I have done a few things to help. Raising my chair is definitely helpful. I use an office chair that has that capability and also has a lumbar. I also added "The Gypsy Sit Upon" My Mom wasn't able to use it, but it does help me. Raising the cutting table has helped as well. I have an island in my kitchen where I do my major cutting now. I raise my ironing board for smaller stuff. Mom also uses an "airplane" neck pillow (bought at the airport) with beads in it which she wears when she is sewing. She also bought a shoulder/neck/back "blanket that she puts in the microwave to heat it up. (She got it thru "Harriet Carter" I think.) I think the idea of not sewing for hours on end without getting up and stretching is a great suggestion that we do as well. Some of it is trial and error finding what works for you, but definitely find a solution as stopping entirely should not be an option.
    If you sleep under a quilt, you sleep under a blanket of love. :-)
    Donna

  20. #20
    Super Member QuiltingKrazy's Avatar
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    I received an email at work one day that was talking about "stare-ing" at the computer screen all day in the same position. As you scrolled down thru the email the "text" would change directions - first printed straight on - then would change sideways to the left and then sideways to the right and back and forth. So the entire time you are reading the email you were physically bending your head/neck to one side or the other to read it.

    THUS.... you were excerising your neck mucsles without really realizing it! Until you realize that that little movement really did feel good! Even simple things like that can help avoid "stiff necks" when sewing. Same with shoulders just stop and roll your shoulders up, down and around every so often. I know I have to make myself relax my arms and shoulders when doing FMQ. I get so caught up in it and then realize I have tensed up my hands, arms, shoulders and neck. I have to stop, stretch and then begin again the concentrate on R E L A X I N G while quilting. Easier said than done!
    Lisa B in NC
    Quilting is my Happy Thought!
    http://www.quiltingkrazy.blogspot.com

  21. #21
    j
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    My husband just made a top for my ironing board and the height at its highest is great for cutting, My 18 cutting mat fits there. Now dont laugh, I needed a place for my sewing machine that would be even with the surface. So after many ideas, I pulled out the middle leaf of the dining room table and he built a shelf there so my machine is even with the table. I had a plastic quilting board and it slides on to the machine and covers the back area of th machine. When I want to put the machine away, just pull the leaf back into place and your table is again ready for eating. No marks to the top side and so far is working great. -- J

  22. #22
    Super Member crafty pat's Avatar
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    I was told by one of you to put door stop's to raise the back of my machine up so I did not have to bend over so far and it sure helped me a lot.

  23. #23
    Super Member wesing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crafty pat View Post
    I was told by one of you to put door stop's to raise the back of my machine up so I did not have to bend over so far and it sure helped me a lot.
    My wife has a Tilt-a-ble and I purchased a less expensive variation and we both love them. They help avoid some of the strain of bending over looking at your work. I understand a board member sells them, but I can't remember who. In the pics below the machines are tilted front down, but we also move them so the front is tilted up, and I think the variety helps.

    I have also seen the suggestion above, but I haven't tried it. I hope you find something that helps.

    Darren
    Attached Images Attached Images

    Last edited by wesing; 01-17-2012 at 05:22 PM.

  24. #24
    Member Geisha Girl's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone so much for your answers and support!! I will try all of these at some stage to try and relieve the pain. The last thing I want to happen is for me to no longer sew because I'm in too much pain.

    The tilt idea is a good one, I might start off with a door stop or something and if it makes a difference I'll go ahead and purchase a proper one.

    I do lots of stretches and get massages when ever I can. I think my main problem is being so tense while I sew! Quite often I'll catch myself with my shoulders tensed right up towards my neck...can't be good. I've asked my husband to let me know if he catches me doing it so I can relax!!

    Thanks again everyone, it's comforting to know I'm not the only one!

  25. #25
    Super Member Sheila_H's Avatar
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    I use Voltaren gel to help with the aches and pains its so much better than the A535 stuff, and I alternate my time between piecing and sewing I don't do either activity for more than 20 mins and I take breaks in between. Even if I go to class at the LQS my instructor will tap me on the shoulder and say shouldn't you switch up. She knows I have a lot of major issues with my back and my shoulders. A friend had me try their Bio Freeze over the holidays and that works very fast as well to relieve the aches and pains, she's got Osteo Arthritis of the spine and dealing with a frozen shoulder as well.

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