We already know that repetitive motions cause injury, don’t we? Crochet is no different. But I find the advice about crochet ergonomics – find a grip that works for you, shoulders back and feet flat on the floor – to be rather crude and a little simplistic.

Today I’m looking at what grip works best for pain in the fingers. I’ve been thinking about this because a friend of mine has rheumatoid arthritis, and I was discussing how she crochets with the most common styles. I’ve had issues as well with my fingers, as I find that knitting for any length of time causes strain in the backs of my hands and in my ring and pinkie fingers.

Working with arthritis, at least, means having awareness of the specific joints affected and then changing the style to spare those joints as much as possible. For my friend (and for me to some extent) this means avoiding the use of ring/pinkie fingers, especially in my right hand.

So let’s take a look at the basic pen grip I use.

So here’s the thing: you’d think that just switching to the alternate grip would solve the issue. But the pen grip has another issue: it puts a LOT of motion into the wrist, in my experience. The palm facing up with the hook to the side is the starting position. Pushing through and into the stitch causes the hand to rotate and the wrist to pull up and back, and this is… well, not comfortable, depending on how you’re sitting.

Wrist position while working pen grip

Part of the issue of pen grip is that it feels natural, but using a pen to write is a very different set of motions than crocheting. Writing has much smaller motions controlled with the fingers, for a start! What I notice about the pen grip is that, while I can do it well, it puts far too much movement into my wrists, and ultimately doesn’t spare my fingers. It causes too much tension in the forearm, similar to that experienced while typing with bad ergonomics.

So what is the solution? Well, in my case, I started thinking about the rotation of my palms and where I wanted the hook to be placed while working, and decided on a modified pen grip based on English throwing style.

The key to this grip is that it’s only the thumb and forefinger bracing the hook. The other fingers are free to relax entirely. The palm also rotates forward because the hook is no longer being held at the fingertips (except for the thumb) and this takes pressure off the wrist. There is still quite a bit of motion there – this is crochet, after all – but we’re not pushing the joints to their limits.

The other question to address here is tension in the other hand, but this is rather more tricky because there are so many different ways of holding tension! Personally, I hold tension the same way in my left regardless – between the knuckles of my forefinger and middle finger. Tension doesn’t need to be complicated, and it’s even possible to handle tension without using the left at all in the case of one-handed crochet. The only important thing to know is that the yarn should slide freely, but without slack, and held gently.

This is not to say that this particular grip is the solution to every issue like this. There are as many ways to crochet as there are crocheters! This is one possible method to solve this problem, hopefully without causing more strain in other joints.