Friday, October 3, 2008


Posted by Peg in South Carolina

A few months ago I discovered that many years of carrying very heavy purses draped over my right shoulder had resulted in shoulder and upper arm pains.  I purchased a very small, very light purse, carrying it in my hand rather than on my shoulder, and started self massage and exercise.  A few months later I find myself not totally cured, but well enough and not stupid enough to go back to the heavy purses.

Strangely, this problem had not impacted my weaving.  Until about a week ago.  My right shoulder started giving me trouble, especially when I received the shuttle with my right hand.  So I did some analysis.  I learned that the bench height vis-a-vis the front beam height was just fine.  I learned that I am a shoulder raiser. Or at least I am a right shoulder raiser!

I suspect it was the shoulder raising that added insult to injury when I carried those heavy purses.  I know I did raise my shoulder when my purse was on it because I have sloping shoulders and it was the only way to keep a purse on my shoulder.

So now, when I weave, I have to consciously think of that right shoulder as being heavily weighted down in order to relax it. As long as do that, I am fine. It now will probably always be natural for me to hike up that shoulder.  I will have to be always watchful.

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"Shoulder Issues" was written by Margaret Carpenter for Talking about Weaving and was originally posted on October 3, 2008. © 2008 Margaret Carpenter aka Peg in South Carolina


Susan said...

I developed a pronounced limp as I waited for hip replacement surgery in 2000-2001 . I had a lot of muscles and tendons compensating! After the surgery I found, after the initial healing phase, that I had a lot of muscle pain and a visit to a therapist told me that those 'compensating muscles' all had to get used to going back where they should be! I had to hurt in reverse :)

I had to reduce the size of my purse then as I simply couldn't carry the weight. So when my shoulder ached as well, I didn't understand till now...

There have been articles in Handwoven regarding posture and positioning at the loom. My occupational therpist friends all say they are a great place to start.

Thanks Peg!

Peg in South Carolina said...

You're welcome, Susan. What a shock those "compensating muscles" must have been!

bspinner said...

I noticed pain in my shoulder a couple of years ago. I couldn't put my fingure on the cause until one day at work I was opening a door and had a light bulb moment. At work our #10 cans were kept in a basement store room so as I'm coming up I had my arms full of cans in my right arm, twisting the door knob with my right hand and at the same time pressing my left shoulder against the door to open it. It may not be a heavy purse but just as goofy.
I now am having back and leg problems and I have to be so aware of how I sit at the loom and weave.
Glad you bought this up.

Peg in South Carolina said...

bspinner, I am so glad you can still weave!

Dorothy said...

Hi Peg, went through a somewhat similar "purse" or as we say, over here handbag (yup, even when it's carried on your shoulder! just an English language ecentricity!) adjustment when I had shoulder troubles. The small hand carried bag is a big success and for anything a bit heavier I get out a rucksack (or do you call that a back pack?)

My physio discovered that instead of using shoulder muscles when I raised my arm, I was using neck muscles, I wonder if the same might be the case for you?

I went on a heavy physio regime, firstly to improve my posture, then to break the bad habits I'd got into with my right arm. They were very much like pilates exercises - so I'd highly recommend looking at this as this type of excercise as they get you to use your muscles and joints properly.

An specific exercise to break the use of my neck muscles involved lying face down, stretching the arm out beyond my head as far and straight as I could, then raising it. Another was to sit on a chair, sitting on the hand of that bad arm, and stretch the neck muscles by tipping my head sideways away from the arm. It's amazing the improvement brought about by simple, gentle exercises a couple of times a day.

Connie Rose said...

Hi Peg,
I had the same problem on my left shoulder, gave up shoulder bags a while ago. Don't like having anything hanging from my forearms, either. The best solution has been a nice leather purse-like backpack that distributes the weight and leaves both my hands and arms free. Try it!

Sandi said...

I've been having some knee trouble, and have started using a cane. That helps, but my shoulder bag was throwing me a bit off balance, and I like to have at least one hand free. I managed to find a neat back pack-type purse recently, and it frees up my hands, and balances my shoulders better.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Dorothy, raising your shoulder also involves the neck, also the upper arm....... So neck stretching, upper arm stretches, shoulder stretches, not to mention carpal tunnel stretches because the involvement goes way down the arm. All these plus strengthening exercises. They all have worked I am pleased to say. I can even use my right hand to hold hymnals now. The one good fortune about breaking my ankle years ago I learned all about good physical therapy! I will not go back to shoulder bags (we also call that by that name). Backpacks are much too awkward. My small little purse which I simply carry in my hand (it does have a long strap and I have been known to put it on my shoulder on occasion.......) and that works fine. What part of my body will break down next? Well, actually, I am now working on a foot (arch) problem which is coming along nicely.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Connie and Sandi, I know people swear by backpacks and also by those LL Bean bags which aren't quite backpacks. But I find them terribly awkward to deal with. And i suspect that even those I should keep very light. I have worn little fanny packs at times in my life and discovered that after awhile they would cause pain in my lower back.

Jane said...

OUCH, Miss Peg!! It's heck having our bodies go through all the wear and tear of a long, active life.

Purses are notorious for causing problems, for sure. I now carry a billfold if I am just running errands. It has everything I need within it, and does not cause me any grief. I leave my cell phone in the car, and I don't worry about lipstick, kleenex, and the myriad of things that I used to put into my purse(s). For some reason, the more room there was in a purse, the more things I would find to put into it.

Where I run into problems, is when I am going to a workshop or meeting, and want to carry more than a billfold. I have a couple of nice, woven bags that I use and don't worry too much because this is only a once in awhile event any more in my life.

Pain at the loom is not fun! I hope that yours abates, and that you will have many many many more years of wonderful weaving!


Peg in South Carolina said...

Hi Jane, the pain is gone but I'm taking no chances. Small purse (actually not much bigger than my wallter) and continued exercising.