Many knitters say you can 'forget' pain when you knit, even those suffering from severe pain say it's effective. There are many studies trying to understand the intriguing relationship between the physical and cognitive aspects of chronic pain and how these interplay and intertwine to change the amount of pain you actually feel. Research has shown some fascinating facts about your brain and pain in recent years. The signals that travel up to your brain from an injured area do so as pain inducing signals, these have to be interpreted by your brain before you actually feel pain. Now comes the interesting bit. Researchers have also found that your brain can't concentrate on two things at the time. So if you occupy your brain with an activity that is absorbing enough to cancel out the pain signals, then your brain won't interpret those pain inducing signals. As a result you'll feel less pain and in some situations none at all! Knitting can quite literally take your mind off pain.
Many suffering from long-term medical conditions say that before discovering knitting they felt out of control of their lives and worthless in society. Often they'd wander through their days aimlessly, feeling isolated and lonely. The discovery of knitting changes all this. Suddenly they find they can do something and do it well, it gives them purpose and structure to life. They begin to plan forwards, set goals, self esteem rises and they begin to feel worthwhile in society again. The ability to give gifts and knit for charity increases self esteem further. Enforced rest periods become enjoyable - they're no longer seen as 'lazy'. Knitting enables them to regain their identity and enables them to feel special as individuals once more. Forgotten feelings such as excitement and anticipation are rekindled. These are emotions that can get drowned in the mire of chronic illness. Life becomes worth living again. Importantly they find they belong to a community of knitters. Feeling you belong somewhere is vital to wellbeing. You don't have to be ill to feel lonely or isolated. You can feel lonely surrounded by crowds as you commute to work - inner city life can be very isolating. Similarly mothers of young children can feel isolated as do many elderly - they can be isolated from society simply by not being able to negotiate their front door step!
Knitting is an effective therapy because it deals with the mind and body as a whole. As such it is the perfect complement for all medical treatments. Traditional medical treatments tend to treat the body and not the mind, but research has shown that a person's attitude can be more important in how they manage their condition than the severity of the pain or illness they're suffering from.
Knitting can change negative thoughts and attitudes into positive ones. It encourages people to move forwards. Confidence, self esteem, motivation and mood improves. It gives people a vehicle by which to make social contact and, in so doing, keeps their world open.
For those of us who are fit and healthy, knitting is an effective stress management tool that we can take into the workplace.
And of course knitting in groups brings a whole different set of benefits, both in real face-to-face groups and those on the internet.