Sunday, July 5, 2009

Finding ways to Craft through Pain

In previous posts I introduced my friend Pam, an avid and extremely talented crafter who suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis (see my intro post on Pam here).

This post focuses on one of the ways Pam has been able to continue her intricate bead work and cross stitch. Since her hands, especially her thumbs, are an area that cause some of the most intense pain for her, you can imagine that hours of detailed, fine work is difficult and sometimes impossible.

Pam has told me that the only option at this point in time to alleviate much of the pain in her thumbs is to have surgery that would, in essence fuse the thumb into one position. Obviously this is a last resort as the surgery would not be reversible.

Pam performs daily hand exericises to maintain strength and flexibility. In addition, to support and protect her painful thumb joints Pam wears hand splints pretty much 24 hours a day.

What's fascinating is that she has worked very closely with her hand therapist to create a set of splints that allow her to perform different tasks with more ease. She has one set she wears to bed, others for everyday tasks and a special custom set for her intricate crafting. This special set has made all the difference in allowing her to continue with the hobbies she loves so much - lucky for us because her work is beautiful.

I don't have all of the facts, but I'm sure Pam will chime in and set me straight. Here are the pictures of her braces:

The blue splint keeps her left thumb in a set position that is perfect for allowing her to hold her frame and basically form the 'OK' sign with her thumb and first finger. This allows her to grasp items between those two fingers, while at the same time reducing the amount of pain in the thumb joint by eliminating the movement of the thumb. This splint helps support the thumb in the proper position.

The splints on the right hand had to be smaller because the larger splint did not allow her to grasp the needle without poking into the fabric. Pam needed more flexibility for the right hand in order to stitch. These smaller splints give her the flexibility she needs while still providing much-needed support.

The right-hand splint on the far left picture was designed by Pam with the help of her therapist. It allows more support than the smaller splint (oval eight). The smaller oval eight splint is readily available and are inexpensive. The larger splint was custom made making it more expensive but gave Pam the ability to customize it to her specific needs.

If you have questions for Pam, or if you would like to comment on your own experiences of crafting with arthritis, please use the comments and tell us your story.


Rose Works Jewelry said...

Wow - that's so cool that her therapist is willing to work with her so she can still do things! Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

FashionTouch said...

I always admire those who never give up!


Design Knit Fun said...

Thank you for sharing and bringing awareness to this, as so many people are affected and it is encouraging to learn about those who continue to find joy and ways to overcome obstacles that are setbacks along the way.

Also, the custom splints are great, and good to know about in case ever need to recommend to a patient in the future.

Dirt. said...

what an incredible lady! i can't imagine the intense pay she must feel, and i'm so very glad that her desire to create outweighs the pain in such a way that she's helped to develop a way to continue. kudos to you pam... may you always be able to do the work that brings you the most joy! and to you as well, carla, for introducing us to such a special lady!

Sara at Soap Rehab said...

I have carpal tunnel pain that gets to me sometimes, though I'm sure it's not as bad as the pain Pam is dealing with. Very inspiring story!!

Kathy said...

Wow--This is amazing. We'd love to feature more people who use crafting as a thereapeutic benefits to their health and wellness. Please visit us at or contact me directly at Kathy AT CraftForHealth DOT com.

Keep up the good work!

Evie's Tool Emporium said...

Inspirational! Wonderful to hear a pro-active solution!