After a yoga injury a couple years ago, I have struggled with back pain that has confused my doctors and physical therapists.
After feeling stuck and not getting much better, I became depressed and gained weight. This also impacted my knitting – no one wants to knit while they are in pain!
I began searching high and low for an answer that did not include medication or surgery.
Fortunately, I stumbled across a book and teacher that eventually changed my life and helped me heal my back. I just knew I had to share this technique with all my fellow knitters!
Plus, instead of doing a book review, I thought – why not film a video with the author herself?
So Esther Gokhale, the “Posture Guru of Silicon Valley,” and I set out to record a video just for you on how to relieve back, neck, and shoulder pain.
Video Demonstration: 5 Ways To Relieve Knitting Back, Shoulder, and Neck Pain — with Posture Expert Esther Gokhale
Summary and Recap – 5 Ways To Relieve Knitting Back, Shoulder, and Neck Pain
1. The Shoulder Roll (2:00)
Because of the shapes of our couches, chairs, and car seats, our shoulders tend to get hunched forward over time, which can give you shoulder pain. Concentrating on your knitting makes it worse.
Shoulder repositioning is an easy way to start fixing your posture and relieving your shoulder pain.
1) Isolate the shoulder and take one shoulder at a time a little forward, a little bit up and then, without letting your chest pop up, relax the shoulder back down.
2) It should feel as though you have ratcheted the shoulder back over a gear or wheel.
3) You’ll notice your hands don’t reach out as far as they did previously- that’s good!
2. Stretchsitting (3:30)
To mitigate the fatigue and pack pain of sitting and compressing your spine, you can use a backrest to traction your back and actually stretch and heal it as you sit.
You can use any chair with a low-ish back – even a folding chair.
Position a stretchsit cushion over the back of your chair or use or a folded towel positioned side-to-side.
It should hit mid-back, not low back.
If you have nothing to hang the cushion or towel on, just rest it on the chair back right above your bum.
1) Scoot your bottom all the way back in your chair.
2) Lean forward, away from the back rest.
3) Curve your ribcage forward.
4) Use your hands on the seat pan or wherever you have leverage and stretch your lower spine up.
5) Lean back without popping your chest out and “hook” your back onto the cushion or towel.
6) Follow with your shoulder roll. This will help you stay hooked.
3. Standing Up Periodically (7:07)
It greatly benefits your muscles to get up periodically. We all intuitively know this will relieve our back and neck pain, yet it’s hard to take a minute and actually do it. Think about this as you sit:
1) Every 15 minutes you should be standing up.
2) Stand up and do what feels good! Esther likes to samba, I like to lean forward and stretch my back.
3) When you stand up you are subjecting your body to all kinds of healthy G-forces and additional circulation.
4) As you knit, keep your yarn in a little project bag so that you can bring it with you whenever you have to stand up.
Tip: Whenever you feel a little uncomfortable and start to move and shift in your chair – THAT’S a sign from your body to stand up!
There has been a ton of research lately that shows how bad uninterrupted sitting is for you.
4. Stacksitting (10:03)
When you’re not sitting against the back rest of a chair, you probably alternate between relaxed and slumped or being upright and tense. Both of those do damage and can increase shoulder and neck pain.
The Goal: To learn to sit upright AND relaxed. The key is to have the pelvis well-positioned.
You need a wedge, pillow, or folded towel or blanket on the seat of your chair to help tilt your pelvis forward.
A wedge is built-in to the Gokhale pain-free chair.
You can also use the front edge of the chair if you don’t have a wedge or soft towel (if you’re at a restaurant for example).
1) Sit on the chair almost like sitting on the toilet so that if you had a tail it would be on the seat behind you.
2) Bring your torso upright.
3) Take a deep breath.
4) Do a shoulder roll.
Tip: if you’re using the front edge of the chair, it helps to have your knees below your hips – your legs should angle down.
It takes lots of practice to learn how to stacksit correctly. If you’re doing it right, you should be able to relax (i.e. think “slump”) and remain upright.This is a great technique – you can stacksit anywhere – even on a rock – because of how versatile it is.
Tip: Switch out between stacksitting, stretchsitting and standing up. Each of the positions has its advantages in relieving and preventing back, shoulder, and neck pain.
5. Lengthen the Neck (13:23)
It’s very easy to get drawn into your work and crane your neck forward and down, exacerbating neck pain. To counteract this and to complete your posture ritual, lengthen the neck.
This technique will help relieve tension and pain in the jaw and face, and it often helps reduce chronic headaches, neck, and jaw pain.
1) Grasp one or two little tufts of hair at the back of your neck and gently pull back and up.
2) You are gliding your head back and lengthening the neck.
3) Let your chin relax down. Do not lift the chin, as this causes compression in the neck.
Tip: you can place a small amount of weight, like the Gokhale head cushion, on the top of your head to keep your neck straight.
My Story: I had a daily Bikram Yoga practice for about a year and a half when I hurt myself doing a deep backbend after class one day. In the backbend, my left arm went numb. Since then, every time I raised my arm above waist high, it would go numb again. Scary!
I tried prolotherapy first (the doctor told me to stop going to yoga — cue tears), then dry needling, fire cupping, massage therapy, MAT, and I even got insurance specifically so I could go to a neurologist for an MRI (he said I was fine).
During the two years that followed my injury, I could not do yoga and was too depressed to pick up another sport. Yoga was my sport! I gained weight and lost my enthusiasm for being active.
When a friend recommended the Gokhale Method and I took the free workshop, for the first time I understood WHY my back was hurting, and how a healthy spine was actually supposed to work.
I took the weekend Foundations course. Wanting specific advice on how to go back to yoga safely, I then applied to Esther herself for one-on-one lessons.
While I’ve only recently eased back into yoga, I no longer feel like I’m not exercising. Walking, sitting, standing, bending, and sleeping correctly is now my yoga! My arm and back feel much better, and I also was able to lose weight, a side effect which Esther says is common.
It takes practice, but thanks to the Gokhale Method I am simply enjoying the movement of everyday life, which is a beautiful thing.
Learn the Gokhale Method
- Book: 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back – Highly recommended – makes a great gift!
- DVD: Back Pain: The Primal Posture Solution
- Learn in Person: Find a Free Workshop or Foundations Course in Your City
- Private Lessons: Get One-On-One Coaching
- Stretchsit Cushion
- Head Cushion
- Pain-Free Chair (money-back guarantee)
About Esther Gokhale and the Gokhale Method
The Gokhale Method helps people restore their natural architecture — the posture and movement ways that we all had as little children.
Up until 100 years ago people had excellent architecture and movement patterns.
You still see the same patterns in babies and some cultures around the world today — and all those people are free of back, shoulder, and neck pain!
The Gokhale Method helps you get back to that health and posture efficiently and in a sustained way.
Esther Gokhale’s book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, has sold over 100,000 copies and has been translated into eight languages. In 2010, Gokhale hosted the nationally televised program Back Pain: The Primal Posture Solution (available on DVD).
Esther has been a speaker/teacher at corporations such as Google, IDEO, Mimosa Systems, and Varian Medical Systems and conferences including TEDx(Stanford), Ancestral Health Symposium, Western Price Foundation Conference, and PrimalCon.
Leave a Comment
Which of these techniques really hits home for you? Did you try any of them and experience any relief right away? What other movement tips would you recommend to our readers? Leave a comment and let me know.
- Top 5 Stretches For Knitting Hand Pain and Stiffness
- Here’s What’s Been Going On (the original post about my injury)
45 thoughts on “5 Ways To Relieve Knitting Back, Shoulder, and Neck Pain – Video Demonstration with Posture Expert Esther Gokhale”
Thank you so much for this important information. I used some of the tips and already (1 day) feel better — even at my age (80). I ordered the book from our library and plan to dive into it.
The things that helped me so much were the shoulder roll and the pad in the center of the upper back (I used a little pillow). This may be life-changing for me. Thank you for these tips and all your great knitting pointers over the years. I was watching when your first child appeared! Don’t remember exactly when that was, but I bet you do. Best of luck to you,
Thank you for sharing the post this is so good , easy to understand the tips you shared are so amazing , it will really helpful.
Thank you for your kind words. Liat loves knowing that her posts are helping.
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Hi there. I’ve been a fan of yours and Esther’s for several years now. It’s so good see my interests intersect, as you’ve done here. Great video! I changed my sleeping positions after my Gokhale workshop. Love the little seat cushion. I knit a Cosy for mine using a hot water bottle pattern, it’s so old the bumps fell off but just yesterday I ordered a new one from Amazon because I saw they were in stock. Glide walking is tough to master but I think I’m making progress. Thank you.
Hi Liat! So glad to hear you are feeling better! I wish you the best and hope to see you again in the future.
Thanks for writing this :)
Thank you SO much for this. What a great video. I’ve used Alexander Technique a lot for my back & shoulder pain. But this comes at a perfect time as I’ve just been having shoulder pain from knitting! Loved the video.
Thanks Liat- this information is a godsend! I’ve been working on knitting with looser tension and realized I have to also change my posture and mind set. I am a slump knitter on the side of my bed for which there is a high price to pay. I’m going to get more information on this technique as it will improve my knitting and more importantly my life.
Thanks so much for sharing the Gokhale method with us. I have had shoulder, neck, and back pain very often. I never understood normal alignment of my spine, shoulders, or neck. This is great. All ofus do a lot of computer and knitting. In time it takes a toll on the spine if a few simple precautions are not considered.
You are the best!
I have been blessed over and over by your magnificent courses.
Big hug back,
Mary, your comment filled me with joy when I read it! I love that you say that you have been blessed by my courses. That makes me feel so full of gratitude! Thank you.
Thank you, thank you Liat!! This is so helpful. I am in massage school right now and all of this information is so on point being a knitter or not. Having said that I am also constantly knitting, so it’s especially great information for us knitters. Now to remember to get up every 15 minutes, that will be a challenge.
Thank you again, you are awesome. Love your style of teaching as well :)
Have you tried setting a timer for 15 minutes to remind you? It might sound silly but it would probably be super helpful, especially as you’re setting up a new habit. I have a band on my wrist that vibrates gently every time I’m inactive for more than 15 minutes and I love it! :-)
I am also 80. I will take this one step at a time. Yesterday I used the shoulder roll when is took my 4.5 mile walk. I kept reminding myself and it really helped. I noticed that it helped my lower back tilt while walking. It is really different than just “stand up straight”. I remind myself through the day to do the roll. I will work on each of the exercises one at a time until I am doing all. If I get there I will buy the book!
I love to think that I’ll be walking like you when I’m 80 Nan – great job! :-) Taking it one step at a time sounds perfect! :-)
I marvel at you knitting without looking & while you are talking. How long did it take to get to that capability?
Haha thanks! Once I taught myself to knit without looking (which took about 3 weeks of concentrated effort – sort of feeling my way in the dark), I kept practicing when I had the opportunity – trying to knit in the movie theater, on the treadmill, and while reading books and such. It was hard and I messed up a lot, but I kept at it!
I haven’t been necessarily practicing it specifically since then, but it’s been maybe 5 years since I taught myself to knit without looking, so I’ve had plenty of practice. I go REALLY fast when I look, though. :)
I want to be able to knit even if something happens to my eyes, like if I get macular degeneration, which runs in my family. It’s a comforting thought to think that nothing will be able to stop me from knitting! :D
I share my tricks for knitting without looking in my video course on Continental Knitting.
Thanks for the update. It took me a long time also to realise how bad sitting is. I have Fibromyalga and have found Tai Chi helps to realign my body. I tried Physiotherpy, doctors and all sorts of exercise which helped in some small way but consistently found Tai Chi worked for me. I am so glad that you found a way to help you. Keeping your health is so important. Giddy from Australia!
I have fibromyalgia& CFS/ME. When my body betrays me and I have rotated through all the chairs and beds in the hous feeling a lot like Goldilocks I break out by exercise ball. I check for pressure, back it up against my wingback chair if my balance is especially bad and park myself on that. While it is certainly possible to be a slouch and fold over on yourself when using an exercise ball, if correct posture is your goal it is easy to recognize when you are out of alignment. Putting yourself in a free rolling position will exercise your core and strengthen back muscles as well. Sit bone position on the Bon is pretty important or you can get a sore tailbone…
The exercise ball is an excellent recommendation – thanks so much Dianna! :-)
Thank you very much, Liat!!!
La verdad es que te pones a tejer y te olvidas de tu espalda, hasta el momento en que te vas a levantar, que entonces te duele todo. Estos ejercicios son muy útiles para no castigarnos nuestras espaldas de tejedoras. Muchas gracias por compartir y me alegro de que estés mejor.
Happy knitting and greetings from Spain!!
Que bueno que te haya gustado el video! Es impresionante la diferencia que te sientes en la espalda cuando te levantas cada 15 minutos. Estoy haciendo un esfuerzo para hacerlo mientras trabajo en mi compu también.
Gracias por tu comentario! Saludos :))
Liat–thank you for adding Esther to our knitting world. I fell in love with her book because of the incredible illustrations but the words did not make sense to me. After several years of very good Iyngar yoga, my increased body awareness motivated me to attend an introductory free lecture and start really studying the book. Can’t afford the courses yet but I’m aiming for them. I have osteoarthritis which affects my hands and I found good exercises and advice by googling, but the way you tie in the Gokhale Method is just the Best!! –Bunnyrose
Thanks so much! So timely. I’ve been struggling with neck pain due to arthritis. Physical therapy hasn’t helped, and although Rx anti-inflamatories do help, I don’t want to take those forever. I think this approach makes sense. I’ve just ordered the book and signed up for a free online course.
By the way, how do you knit without looking? Got any tips on that?
My mom struggles from arthritis in her neck, too. Maybe if these exercises help you, it will convince her to put some time into studying this method! It’s wonderful that you’re open to trying this new way to treat the pain.
As far as knitting without looking goes, yes, I definitely have tips on that. :)
It’s easiest for me to knit without looking when I’m knitting Continental style, and that was one of the reasons I took the time to learn and switch over from American style.
In my Continental Knitting online video course, at the end, there is a video demo where I explain my tips on how to work up to knitting without looking. It’s definitely a skill worth honing.
I definitely needed all that good advice. I do not really have back pain yet, however I can slump into my chair with my knitting and just stay put.My shoulders pay a huge price.
Many many thanks and all best wishes. Jean
Prevention really is the best cure. Boring, but true! :-)
Liat, you are phenomenal! First with your great knitting advice which is user friendly and supportive. Now with your personal experience with back pain and how you found relief. For you to share this information in this video is very generous. How empathetic of you in sharing and reaching out to those who suffer from back pain as well. Blessings and many thanks for sharing your knitting knowledge and caring so much for others!
Thank you for your sweet comment! It makes me so happy to hear from readers like you who are enjoying what I’m posting. It helps me feel so connected to you.
Your comment really gave me a thrill of joy. Thank you!
I am really no good at taking directions about an exercise. Too self-conscious or what? Haven’t figured it out yet, even at 80 years old, so why sweat it! Being able to sit here and look right at the screen and roll my shoulders, looking at you, was GREAT! Thank you very much.
Awww, Marie :-) So glad Liat got you moving and rolling in the privacy of your own home :-) Happy knitting!
Such good information. And I see that you have lost some of that hurt back weight.
You look rested and fabulous! As always, Thanks so much…Juice
Thank you so much for this specific instruction from Esther. Going to check out more.
Thank you so much for posting a video, rather than “selling” a peek. Your helpful tips for reducing or eliminating pain have been wonderful. Your sincere desire to help other knitters is so refreshing. Usually it’s all about the $ but you give so much of your knowledge and discoveries away simply to help others learn what you’ve learned. Thank you again!
Your comment made me so happy! I just love that you’re benefitting from this video and telling me about it. And thanks for reminding me that it’s rare to give away good free content. I love that on my blog I can help my readers learn my favorite skills absolutely free.
thank you for the information, were very helpful
Liat, thank you for this educational back relief video. I followed the exercises and immediately felt relief . I suffer from extreme back pain due to rear end accidents (2) first one was 1996. I was diagnosed with stenosis along with bulging discs. Recently 4/14 I agreed to have steroid injections lower spine again in 10/14. It helped I no longer cry because of extreme pain. Esther Gokhale’s method gave me immediate relaxed feeling.
I will incorporate Esther Gokhale’s method from this day forward. This will help the numbing of right arm especially while I am knitting. Thank you so much I will order book next month as funds are tight right now. BUT I have this video to use every day.
Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this comment Juanita. Comments like this are the reason why Liat loves this so much. “Immediately felt relief”. Perfect! Can’t ask for more than that! :-)
You are a goddess! I have known about Esther’s work for some time. I have learned from her book and the brief videos in her newsletter, but to have it all connected so well here, and in connection with knitting, is brilliant!
So glad that you’re already a fan of Esther. She’s great isn’t she :)
Thanks so much for bringing this resource to us. Very useful stuff and definitely needed.
Wonderful. Thank you!
Thank you! I meditate and also have begun yoga. Learning how to support and position the neck, spine, and pelvis just as you explain is essential in being able to meditate and develop the practice. One of the primary reasons people don’t or stop meditation is because of an inability to align the body in order to sit with ease. The suggestions you provide are the same ones I give in teaching meditation and when the spine/neck/pelvis are positioned as the skeletal and muscles are designed one can meditate without pain for 45 min or and hour.
Thanks so much for this, Liat. Very encouraging info…it’s do-able! and simple!
“Do-able and simple” means we can all get them done :)