Crochet: Just What the Doctor Ordered

pinit fg en rect gray 20 Crochet: Just What the Doctor Ordered

This is a guest post by Kathryn Vercillo, the blogger behind Crochet Concupiscence. She has just released a new book, Crochet Saved My Life, about the mental and physical health benefits of the craft. 

 

Imagine if you went to your doctor with an ailment and she took out her prescription pad and wrote you an order for one G-sized crochet hook, an indulgent skein of baby alpaca yarn and an hour of downtime. In these days of pharmaceutical company reps and health insurance mandates it’s probably not going to happen but the truth of the matter is that crochet might be just as healing for many people as popping a pill, going to a fifty minute therapy session or visiting the holistic healer for alternative medications. Crochet offers chemical, physical and emotional benefits that can help heal conditions as diverse as fibromyalgia and schizophrenia.

 

Crochet is a repetitive craft. Although you can manipulate it in various ways with many different stitch types and techniques, crocheters typically use the same few common stitches in patterns that tend to have a long pattern repeat. This repetition is a good thing. It lulls the mind and body into a relaxed state which can lower blood pressure, reducing stress-related disease and improving general wellbeing for people with any health condition.

 

The repetition of the craft also has another huge benefit, which is that it likely helps to release serotonin. This important chemical in the body is a natural anti-depressant. It promotes feelings of wellbeing for people with clinical depression including post-partum depression as well as people who experience depression as part of another health problem such as a chronic illness. Serotonin also acts as a natural painkiller and therefore is beneficial for people who need non-narcotic pain relief, including women who are pregnant and people with substance addiction problems.

 

Crochet, as a craft that requires fine motor coordination in the hands, can also be a terrific occupational therapy tool. It can be used to help rebuild those motor skills after a loss due to stroke, for example. And the craft is used as an OT tool in another way as well; it can provide a talking point for group therapy sessions that helps break down barriers between OT group members and facilitate growth in the sessions.

 

All of this sounds nice in theory, but is it really true? I can say for certain that it is because I personally used crochet to heal through a lifelong battle with depression. It worked for me (when combined with a complete treatment plan) when nothing else ever had; it’s a story that I share in my new book about the mental and physical health benefits of crochet. Researching this book allowed me to connect with women who also shared that they had healed thanks to crochet – from conditions including anxiety and autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenic hallucinations, obsessive compulsive disorder, restless leg syndrome and Chronic Lyme Disease. There’s evidence to suggest that crochet also helps people who are coping with age-related memory loss, addiction issues, and arthritis. Crochet – it’s just what the doctor ordered!

 

Image of Cover for Crochet Saved My Life2 Crochet: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Photo Courtesy of Julie Michelle Photography

How have you used crochet or another craft to heal from an illness?

 

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Comments

  1. Crochet helps me stay smoke free and I helps keep the blues away. I get a great sense of accomplishment when I finish something. Especially when it is for someone else or if it helps fill in the gaps of our family budget. I keep telling my DH its good for me and I know it is.

  2. catherine says:

    Yes I do. I have Fibrial Myalgia.

  3. Sharon Hanson says:

    The only reason I know how to crochet is due to injury and illness. About 4 years ago, I fell, severely injuring my knee. After 2 surgeries and several weeks in a wheel chair, my neighbor told me I was being a whiny b*tch and I needed a hobby. She took me and my wheel chair to the store, bought me a hook and some yarn, and taught me a few basic chain stitches. With a few days, I was “hooked”. Since that initial introduction to crochet, I’ve made several blankets, countless hats and scarves, Christmas ornaments, Star Wars amigurami, headbands, gloves, and even a hobby horse for a young girl’s birthday. I also have rheumatoid arthritis, and I’ve noticed that when I crochet the night before, my hands are not as stiff when I wake up in the morning. The psychological benefits of crocheting are even more evident in my life. I went from feeling useless and depressed to feeling like I am not only accomplishing something, but I’m making others happy while I do so.

  4. I use crochet all the time just resently I used it for the death of my father in May, Death of my mother in July and a stroke for my self all within two monthes of each other

  5. In Nov of last year I was struck with a series of thunderstruck migraines, they left with brain damage on my left side, lost some vision and memory; took three months too remember how to do a granny square; I loved to crochet delicate baby layettes, now I can barely follow a pattern; but its a passion with me the yarn, the colors the beauty and its helping to bring me back so I can relate to your article thank you for writing it, Im not alone

  6. After a horrible accident that ruined my back and over 12 plus years of awful, nail biting pain, I picked up my hook again….In two short years I have improved physically somewhat (as good as I could) BUT mentally I am alive again! Depression, Fibromyalgia and a worsening back was there. The don’t fall again or it will be over was there…and the big one you have less than two years to live was there. But…it is now past two years, I am still here :o) and most of all I have a passion and a purpose in this life thanks to Crochet!

  7. I live in pain 24/7 from sensory peripheral neuropathy and have 3 bulging discs in my back with one that has a tear (that tear moves and will rest on the nerves that go down my legs and cause extreme pain). My crocheting is the only thing that keeps me sane!! It takes my mind off my pain as I refuse to be so medicated that I do not even know my own name. I only take lyrica and not much of that as all of these drugs put a strain on your liver. So therefore, crocheting is what I do !!

  8. It’s not really necessary to write my whole medical history here, because it would be a very very long text about my polymorbidity:) sometimes the only thing I can do is sit and crochet or knit, but I feel very happy about being able to do it! This manual work helps me not only on the physical level to train my arthritic hands, but also on the mental level: I can create beautiful and useful things and feel a great satisfaction about it! I had to quit my job I loved so much, but I’ve found this possibility of “staying alive”!

  9. Jeannette says:

    It’s therapeutic for me: I took it up again after my husband died of cancer, and I make hats to donate to Knots of Love for other chemo patients. I think knowing I was doing something positive helped with depression. Side benefit: when my hands are busy, I don’t eat.

  10. Crochet definately saved my sanity! The short of the story goes like this: I was always a crafter. I enjoyed crafts like cross stitch and delicate embroidery. Then I went blind due to lots of conditions I won’t go into here. I thought my crafting days were over. I was deeply depressed, not just because of the loss of crafting. My mom suggested I try crochet again. She had taught me how to do it when I was younger, and fully sighted. I found some wonderful resources on the internet and a group of blind crochetters that helped immensely! I started crochetting again. Soon that wasn’t enough. I taught myself how to do tunisian crochet, knit and loom knit. In 2010, I needed surgery to remove my one eye. The pain was almost unbearable in my eye. The pain of impending loss was terrible too. I made several blankets that year to help with both loss and pain. If it weren’t for crochet, I don’t even want to consider the depths of depression I would have been in!

  11. I have found crochet has helped me to heal & deal with breast cancer and all the surgeries I have gone through for reconstruction. I don’t know how I would have dealt with this disease without my crochet. I know I would be taking meds for depression but I don’t. The joy of crocheting something for myself or to give to someone else makes it all worthwhile.1

  12. When I first found out I have MS my doctor told me to do something to use my fingers a lot so I didn’t loose the use of them. That was when I started crocheting and selling doll clothes on eBay. My husband used to complain about how much yarn and crochet thread I had. I would make things and they would just sit there and take up space. Now I make and sell doll clothes on eBay. I can now have as much yarn and crochet thread that I want my husband no longer complains.

  13. When I lost my daughter at birth and had two miscarriages after I dove into crochet work. It helped me to focus on something other than being depressed. Now when I feel down or just feel like it I crochet.

  14. Liz Tomlinson says:

    I get trigger finger, which is sort of like carpal tunnel for the fingers but not. After surgeries, I use crochet to fine tune my finger dexterity and fine tune motor skills. I love to crochet!

  15. 2 years ago I was going through chemo following a partial radical mastectomy. I spent hours hooked to an IV every other week. I brought my crocheting and kept my fingers busy. Soon I realized I was keeping my mind busy too. I would look at patterns and new stitches and practice them until I figured them out. I was looking forward to new projects and suddenly it dawned on me, I was making future plans. I wasnt worrying how much time I still had or dwelling on the poison dripping into my veins. I was free from the thing that scared me most — the possibility of dying. My doctor told me I had the fewest side effects she had ever seen and the best attitude. I now talk to other new chemo patients and tell them how I found a path to healing my mind as well as my body. I dont think I would be here today without the aid of my trusy crochet bag and binder full of projects to work on.

  16. Like so many others I have a bad back, and also deal with depression. Crochet keeps me busy and moving forward. I ofter tell people that crochet saved me and it’s good to know that I am not the only one!

  17. Yes, it’s helped me for years with arthritis, fibromyalgia,
    and stress. Stitching keeps me going, and bring a positive
    attitude even with pain.

    2 sc. and 3 dbl’s sends the troubles away!!

  18. Twenty years ago, I was recovering from breast cancer surgery. I had a season pass to Disneyland and every day I went to Disneyland and sat and crocheted an afghan. Happiest place on earth, don’t you know! People would stop and ask me questions like I worked there – it was healing in every way!!

  19. I have crocheted for over 40 years but after my diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis I found it dificult to do. However I try to do it for an hour every day because it excercises my brain and my fingers. It is very relaxing and helps me resist mindless eating.

  20. My grandmother taught me crochet when I was 7 years old. For some reason I gave it up in my forties. At 50 I was diagnosed with myotonic muscular dystrophy and picked up my hook again. My hands and arms have grown pretty weak and clumbsy but I am determined to keep crocheting, even with fine thread. I’m not very fast anymore but I do think it helps me keep some dexterity and strength. The biggest benefit for me though is the ability to relax when I crochet. It’s impossible for me to relax and watch tv or visit with family if I’m not busy doing something with my hands. While watching a movie I am either fidgeting and getting up every two minutes or falling asleep. I can crochet and keep myself tuned in to whats happening around me. No plans on stopping anytime soon!

  21. After 6 surgeries on my hands for osteo arthritis I crochet to keep the fingers limber. My grandmother taught me age age 8 and still love it 50 yrs later.

  22. I have been crocheting for about 65 years. My husband was very ill for a number of years and we spent countless hours at Dr. and hospital appts. I always had my work with me because it kept my arthritic hands and mind off his illness and also passed many long hours of sitting waiting for appt. time. I taught lots of women how to crochet. I always kept a good supply of hooks and extra thread with me and would not only teach them how to crochet but would also give them the hook and thread. It was a great joy to do this for other women and teach them how to cope with long periods of waiting without getting stressed out or upset sitting with nothing to pass the time. It’s a wonderful therapy for lots of things and I have even made things for doctors and nurses over the years. I have no intentions of stopping. I now have 17+ large totes of yarn and several large boxes and plan to use a lot of it in the future.

  23. Sil Johnson says:

    Picked up crochet again a couple of years ago, when my Dad was very sick….kept me calm while sitting in the hospital with him during his last days. I’ve kept it up because it is just a soothing thing to do (even with arthritic hands) :) I knew there was more to my crochet than just the finished products :) Great article!

  24. No but I am about to…..I took a crochet class last fall. I had made some Christmas gifts and was loving this new craft. I do a lot of handiwork but crochet is my favorite. Had an accident end of Jan. & broke my dominant hand. I really miss crocheting but have a cast and cannot manage it. My plan is to crochet a lot after the cast is removed as “physical therapy” for my hand to hopefully get it back to fully functional :)

  25. 22 years ago I suffered a serious injury requiring facial reconstruction. The Zygomatic arch fracture resulted in strabismus (double vision) until I was able to get the muscles in my eyes back to normal. The Ophthalmologist suggested that rather than watching TV or reading, that I should do something that would fix my eyes straight in from with limited side to side movement. I asked if knitting and crochet would be therapeutic and he said, “Yes. Perfect.” So, like my mother and grandmother, I took up those two yarn skills. Along with counted cross stitch, tatting, bobbin lace, macramé, origami and a few other forms of mental relaxation, I still do those crafts. I have won grand champion and best in show awards at our county fair in recent years. Crochet and knitting are my mantras. That frustrates the very talented ladies in the competition who have lost out to an old, beat-up, Vietnam war veteran. This year I will be in the 70+ category, so they won’t have to go up against me until they, too, have reached that milestone. By then I probably won’t be in their way anymore. HAW!

  26. I have read the book (awesome btw) and crochet for a number of reasons. Mental therapy for anxiety and depression issues, to keep my fingers and hands limber and for extra money making things people love! I have been crocheting since I was a girl. Being left handed poses a lot of obstacles in crocheting so I learnded how to crochet right handed. I will probably be buried with my hooks :)

  27. Marion Duncan says:

    I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my service with the Canadian Military. To keep my mind focused from wanting to commit suicide…so far..it has worked.

  28. Angel Koerner Bohon says:

    Open Heart Surgery. Once the incision had healed I still had to remain fairly still in order for the breast bone to heal back together properly. Had it not been for being able to crochet I would probably have completely lost my mind since I have always been an active person and not use to just sitting in a chair day in and day out. Now I encourage all open heart surgery patients to crochet (or learn to prior to surgery) at our local hospital. I am a huge advocate in being both heart healthy and crocheting! Whoo Hoo :)

  29. During a particularly stressful family time I picked up my crochet hook after putting it down for nearly 20 yrs. due to working and arthritis taking over my hands. Took some pain pills and said I’ll just work through the pain because I needed something to think about other then the recent problems. Best thing I ever did, my hands work so much better now that I am crocheting every day. And the distraction helped me get my BP in check. I am happy to say the other issues worked themselves out well also.

  30. I had nerve damage in my right hand, so I learned how to crochet watching videos online, used a piece of PC pipe to fatten the handles on my crochet needles. This is the best therapy ever and now I’m back to normal and I crochet, knit and I’m a new weaver.

  31. I was diagnosed with RA and AS. Crocheting keeps my hands nimble and what I create is sold on my website http://www.bjspetprojects.com with 100% of sales going to animal rescue and shelter. So crocheting helps me with my pain and gives me a way to give back for all the good I have in my life and helps the animals at South Pacific Count Humane Society.

  32. I’ve been crocheting whenever i feel like it and when I’m down, but as of last year i had a lung collapse. With the pain and constant waiting at hospitals, crocheting helped keep my mind of things and the pain in my chest. It happened again recently so i have been putting my hooks to good use!

  33. My doctor wonders why I don’t complain of more arthritic pain in my hands. I have to say if several days go by and I haven’t picked up a crochet project, my hands ache. This is almost immediately remedied when I begin crochet again. I have to believe that the dexterity needed to wield a hook and manage the yarn has not only waylaid the effects of arthritis that clearly shows in xrays but also keeping count, deciphering a pattern and seeing it to the end product might be helpful with optimizing brain functions at this age ~ 67!!.

  34. Holly Douglas says:

    I was fortunate to have a Great Aunt and Mother who crochet and took the time to teach me the basics. My Great Aunt made beautiful table clothes and was talented with the finer threats. My Mother has made many blanket in all sizes, scarves and recently makes blanket for the Humane Society.
    I have fibromyalgia and getting the stress down is important so crochet is light mediating for me, I have made many presents. Creating my own patterns as well as using some other talented person patterns. if I don’t have a book or iPhone ready a book I am crochet the smaller project when waiting for an appointment. My friends shake their heads at me because even when I am visiting I need to do something with my hands. And they have benefited from my addiction.

  35. I hurt my shoulder a few years ago and I was crocheting in the waiting room while waiting for treatment. The therapist told me I should not crochet because it would aggravate my injury. So I stopped crocheting and on my next visit she asked me why I was so tight. I said because I stopped crocheting, it relaxes me. She said by all means start crocheting again. It does relax me,

  36. I thought I was a walking thesaurus until I ran into “concupiscence.” What a great word for a great feeling of overwhelming emotion/obsession/fixation/lusting. I love it. It goes into my cerebral lexicon immediately. It certainly describes crochet to a T. I need a good four syllable word for yarn hoarding, now. Any ideas? HAW!

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  1. […] She is the blogger behind popular crochet blog Crochet Concupiscence and the author of the book Crochet Saved My Life. Kathryn is currently working on a book of creativity exercises for […]

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