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Thread: Help I can't machine sew for long because of upper back discomfort

  1. #1
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    Help I can't machine sew for long because of upper back discomfort

    Hello everyone,
    Iím looking for a advice, I am 67 and have taken up sewing quilts again but I am finding I have a huge problem with my upper back/shoulder blades area. After sitting at the sewing machine for periods of time, my upper back is painful and I feel like I have a stretched muscle, and it is impossible to sit and sew as it is so painful. I donít have vertebrae problems, nor any back problems, the stretched feeling seems to come from beneath the right shoulder blade, and spreads out across in this area, it is so uncomfortable I cannot carry on sewing. I also find it impossible to sit up straight and lean back into the back support of my chair. when I sew, I have to ďhunchĒ at the sewing machine.
    >>
    I sew for short periods, after half an hour I get up and walk around.
    I have door stops wedged under the back of the sewing machine to tilt it forward, but I still need to hunch forward to sew.
    What type of chair do you have? Is there a special design with a chair?
    >>
    I also purchased the Mesh Lumbar Back Support to attach to the back of my chair. It is great for the car or sitting at the computer but of no use when at the sewing machine, because I have to still hunch forward so get no benefit from having a lumbar support on the back of the chair when at the sewing machine. .>>
    http://www.punchwithjudy.com.au/shop/search.php?mode=search&page=1
    .>>
    Advice would be appreciated? Has your physio given you any exercises tips for when sitting at the sewing machine? I can only put this down to ageing as I have no other back problems at all apart from this which interferes with my sewing time!
    Regards,
    Anna Australia


  2. #2
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    The key to comfort at any sitting task is to make sure you're at the correct height. I get the same kind of issue when I work on a laptop at a table rather than a desk. Make sure your forearms are at a 90 degree angle to your upper arms when you're sewing. Hopefully you have a chair with adjustable height so adjust it appropriately. Also make sure you are sitting directly in front of your machine. Occasionally I've seen sewing cabinets where the machine is off to the side a bit - they always looked like pain to me!

    Pam

  3. #3
    Super Member ghostrider's Avatar
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    Elbows bent at 90ļ, shoulders relaxed, machine bed slightly lower than your outstretched hands, and sit directly facing the needle. A pillow behind the small of your back can be a great help as well...as is getting up and moving around every so often.
    The Earth without art is just "Eh".

  4. #4
    Super Member sewwhat85's Avatar
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    i would check the height of your table and the height of your chair
    Nancy

  5. #5
    Power Poster mighty's Avatar
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    I also think it could be the height of your sewing table and the chair.

  6. #6
    Senior Member IAmCatOwned's Avatar
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    In my case, it is caused by a table that is too low. It is not the chair. If you look at yourself sewing in a mirror, you are hunched over which is why you are in pain. Raise your table and I'm sure it will improve. Did for me.

  7. #7
    Super Member carolaug's Avatar
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    besure to get up and move around often...do little chores - like laundry, dishes, lots of cleaning breaks...you will be moving and getting the house clean at the same time...move those muscles....also try moving your foot petal. Some say using a book under it helps or a different position. How about a board to lift you chair height or you may want to put a few boards under you table...not sure if you need it higher or lower. Before you go out an buy a new chair or table find out the problem first.

  8. #8
    Junior Member Sewing Joe's Avatar
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    Put your ironing board on the other side of the room, so you have to get up fairly often. Someone gave me this hint years ago, and it sure helps my back.
    Joe in New Albany, IN

  9. #9
    Super Member JulieR's Avatar
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    Are you sure you don't need new eyeglasses?

  10. #10
    Super Member newbee3's Avatar
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    maybe you need a better adjustable chair

  11. #11
    Super Member Becky Crafts's Avatar
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    We are full time RV'rs, so I don't have much space. I sit in my recliner with a TV tray holding my sewing machine. I have problems with my lumbar area so I have a special lumbar pillow in my recliner & with the frequent breaks I am slower than some folks, but like the turtle & the hare, slow & easy wins the race. I hope you find a way to be more comfortable when you sew as well. Perhaps one of those posture harness systems for sewers that holds your shoulders back & corrects your posture while you sew? Happy New Year & good luck!
    Live Simply, Love Generously, Care Deeply,Speak Kindly, Leave the rest to GOD

  12. #12
    Super Member jemma's Avatar
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    good lighting a must----adjust the heights ----use a timer to signal get up and stretch time max 30 mins---and my very best trick------raise the back of your machine so it has a forward tip--i use rubber door stops--i raise mine 1/2 inch ---- nb mark the door stops so its eay to put them in evenly

  13. #13
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    I found myself hunching over at my machine to sew bacause I could see better. I purchased the magnifying glasses that fit on my Bernina machine. Right now I have on the lowest one and I can see really well sitting back from my machine. What a relief and well worth the money spent (about $60) Find the reason your hunching over and fix it.

  14. #14
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    Perhaps you have a rotator cuff injury. If adjusting your workstaation doesn't help, then I suggest you see an orthopedic dr.

    Feel better!

  15. #15
    Super Member Peckish's Avatar
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    I agree with the other posters who gave these tips - get some of those rubber wedge doorstops from your hardware store and stick them under the back corners of your machine. This will tilt the machine so it's easier for you to see without hunching over it. And try adjusting the height of your table and chair.

  16. #16
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    Good lighting is a must! I got a bendable bright lite, don't know how I ever sewed without it!

  17. #17
    Senior Member EmbQuilt's Avatar
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    I have read that some people here sew standing up. I can't do that, I've tried when my back hurts but it made it worse.

    I get nerve regeneration shots in my back which have helped me sew.

  18. #18
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Try sewing standing up. That's how I machine quilt. I place my sewing machine on my cutting table and no more aching shoulders and back. (It's a good idea to wear good support shoes and stand on a cushioned surface.) I also created a styrofoam "table" surround for my machine from directions on Youtube, but that would not be necessary for piecing tasks.

    It is the hunching over the machine that is likely causing your problems. Sewing standing up does not allow you to hunch over (at least in the same way).

    Here is a link to a website that illustrates proper ergonomic positioning for sewing while sitting down:
    http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/sewi...iondesign.html

    Edit: After reading the other posts, I agree that poor vision may be what is causing your hunching over. The magnifier and better lighting might solve your problem. I personally got no benefit from tilting my machine, so I don't do that anymore.
    Last edited by Prism99; 01-01-2012 at 07:14 PM.

  19. #19
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    I have that problem also and I just got a new chair a few wks ao and it's helped some. I also got that table Joanne's had on sale and it's a good hgt so you don't have to bend your back. I think it's also the desk I'm using but I'll have to keep getting up. Their are certain chairs that will make the sciatic nerve hurt and I can't sit but a couple of min. I guess I need a pillow to sit on. Good luck wish I could help you more but I haven't figured out the problem yet myself. Sue

  20. #20
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    Make sure your chair is at the right height. It can really make a difference. I also have a mesh back support on my chair. I found that is I roll up a bath towel and wedge it in the upper portion of the support it pushes it forward and helps give better support. Hope this helps.
    DonnaR
    Grammy to Isaiah and Ruth

  21. #21
    Junior Member Xtgirl's Avatar
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    My back hurts like that too. I think my table is too low. I definitely hunch over. I don't know if I want to tilt my machine because it's an embroidery machine too but I think I will try to raise my table.

  22. #22
    Super Member Ps 150's Avatar
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    I have always had back pain and when I took up quilting, I found the quilting process to be very hard on my back. I bought a great chair, at the right height but the pain continued, not only in my back but also in my wrists (carpel tunnel) and fingers (arthritis). Especially since I never really stopped, I just kept going. So, when I sit down to quilt, I put in a short cd or a short playlist on my computer. After the music stops, I get up and move around.
    "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove."

  23. #23
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    Go to your chiropractor and have him/her tell you what is wrong. I had upper back pain and found out it was a muscle problem. I just turned 61 and there are things you can do so the aging thing isn't the cause totally. There is a really good exercise show on our PBS and the lady says that as you age, your joints need lubracation.Your chiro should give you stretching exercises, and if you google online you can get physical therapy exercises. You may just find out that you have a vertabrae out or something simple.

  24. #24
    Super Member CoventryUK's Avatar
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    My chiropractor gave me a really effective excercise....it is called Static Back. Lie on floor with your bottom against a chair, put your legs on chair so that your hips are at 90deg, and your knees are bent at 90deg. spread your arms out and turn your palms upwards. Lie like this for 15 minutes and you will find your spine is realigned and your shoulders are relaxed!! Works for me!! Try it and see!! Good luck!!
    Hilary

  25. #25
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    If you hunch over while sewing it is very likely that you hunch over at the computer, while walking, pushing the grocery cart (you know, resting your arms on the cart and gliding along). My physical therapist helped me to change the hunch over habit and it has really made a difference. Just being aware of it and pulling myself upright as I walk has helped with a number of walking issues I had.

    I spend 8 hours a day at a computer and changing my workspace (including a decent chair) made a great deal of difference. I am still working on my sewing set up but don't have the right combination yet. So i stop quite often, pull myslef upright and walk around a bit.

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