I’ve experienced a bit of pain and soreness in my shoulder, and I wondered how to avoid shoulder pain from sitting at the sewing machine.
How do you avoid shoulder pain when sewing? You avoid shoulder pain by taking breaks at least every 30 minutes. You also need to stretch and do some shoulder shrugs once in while. Finally, you need to have a good and healthy posture while sewing.
That’s the short answer though,
Let’s try and break it down into easy actionable steps, which are easy to remember and easy to do.
Table of Contents
Easy shoulder and back exercises for seamstresses
If you have pain in the shoulder, arm, back etc. you should start by incorporating some exercise during work. Here are some easy tips for you to get on the right track:
- Get up at least every 30 minute
- Don’t sit down and sew more than 3-4 hours per day (if possible)
- Lower shoulders
- Do neck rotations
- Do shoulder shrugs every half hour or so.
- Stretch to realign your spine when you are done. (sew video below)
There’s a great exercise for realigning your spine called “Static back”.
You lay down with your feet up on a chair and stay there 4-15 minutes until your back feels flat. After this period you can practice some breathing from the diaphragm muscle.
This is a great position for a lot of reasons. You stretch your back, and you relax at the same time.
My chiropractor also gave me this exercise when I hade lower back pain, so it’s a good all-around exercise for your back and shoulders.
This next exercise is a little more active. It’s a set of stretches you can do to relax the muscles around the shoulders. A few of them requires an elastic band, but there are also easy exercises you can do without products. It’s important to stretch out after sitting at the sewing machine, and these are some good basic exercises you can do anywhere.
Here are some good yoga exercises as well, that you can do once or twice a week.
They require a little more time, and they are designed to help the whole area around the shoulder and upper back to stay healthy and flexible.
When you do these you want to follow the video as much as possible, to get the best out of each sequence. Yoga is a great way to relieve shoulder and back pain, and if you don’t like the “yoga” feel of it, you can easily turn this into a stretch program that works for you.
The best sewing position
Make sure to keep your body in an upright and neutral position as much as possible while sewing.
This can be difficult to remember when you constantly need to reach for something, or you are getting up to cut or iron. Make sure you mix between these stations, so you don’t sit down for too long at the time.
What is a neutral position?
That’s a relaxed position where your main body parts are resting and not working up a tension or cramp.
You want to make sure you don’t bend your back. Imagine sitting on a ball, and feel how straight and relaxed your joints and muscles are. That’s the posture we’re after.
When you train yourself to sew in this position, you will be able to crack hour after hour, as long as you get up and stretch and walk around at least every half hour.
Have someone observe you once in a while
It can be tough to remember all these things when you are also trying to concentrate on the project you are working on. So it’s always a good idea to have a good friend watch you from time to time to make sure you don’t fall back into bad habits.
Tell them to let you know what they see once in a while. We often tend to lean forward when we really try to concentrate. That can be while you are working on a visible stitch, and you are afraid it will turn out wrong.
Switch feet once in a while on the pedal
Let your feet rest naturally on the pedal.
You shouldn’t feel like sitting in a car hitting the gas pedal, the pedal should be closer, so you can maintain a 90-degree angle from at your knee.
By switching feet once in a while you even out the pressure on your back and all the way up to the shoulders. You will have to apply a little muscle to the pedal, so it’s important to switch feet. It’ might seem weird at first, but after a few runs, it will fell 100% natural to use both feet with the pedal.
Ergonomic furniture to create a healthy pasture
Ergonomics are very important for everything we do continuously and for longer periods of time.
We want to make sure the furniture we use offers support and helps up maintain a healthy and good posture. Good and proper furniture is the easiest way to sit right.
The furniture can either work with you or again you when you try to work on your posture.
If you haven’t got the right furniture you cannot expect to keep the pain away. Especially at the shoulder and back areas, as they are very much put to work when we sit at the sewing machine.
We use this ergonomic chair which does a really good job. It can be adjusted in a ton of ways. We have tried several (expensive!) chairs but this seems to work best. The reason is that you can tilt the seat forward and backward. That helps you get a good posture.
Alternatively, you can use a wedge pillow like below.
This is how you want your setup:
Use a chair that is not too low too high.
Your body should form a shape look like the one at the image above. You want a chair without armrests. Keep knees in a 90 degree angle like the picture above, and don’t lean in over the table while sewing. It’s a good idea to be able to lift and lower the seat. Make sure you don’t sit down too much. Stand up while cutting, measuring and ironing.
Use a table with right height. This will vary from person to person, so the ideal cutting table will have adjustable legs, to let you adjust the height as you go. This way you can also use the same table for ironing. The iron board should be lower, as we will look at below.
Make sure the ironing board is not as high as the cutting board. The ironing board should be lower, so you can apply a little force on the iron without getting tense in the shoulders. It’s important to keep a good posture while ironing as well, as this is one of the places you can build up pain in the shoulders.
What can I do to release the pain?
A good shoulder and back rub will often do wonders.
Have someone massage you gently. Especially if you sew on a daily basis. Then you need to have massage regularly and your manager might be able to arrange that during work hours (for free).
Really what you want to do is the same thing as you want to do to prevent the pain.
You make sure to lay down flat on the floor once in a while to relax your back (watch the video above), and you make sure you don’t sit for too long. That eases the tension on the back and will help it recover.
If you have pain in your neck or shoulders you can also put once an ice bag or heat, but don’t cool it down too much. This is to help the muscles relax and let go.
Don’t be afraid to visit the chiropractor. It’s always better to go before the pain is permanent. By visiting the chiropractor in due time, he/she might be able to loosen up the tension and give you specific exercises you can do to be able to sew for many years to come.
Should I expect pain in my shoulders from sewing?
You should be able to sew for hours without any pain in your shoulders. The same goes for your back, neck, and arms.
It’s a myth that it’s just “part of the game”. Don’t accept that.
When you do your exercises and you get up and move around at least once every half hour, you should be perfectly fine. If you do feel pain in your shoulders and back, even though you do what you can to keep it at the door, be sure to consult a chiropractor.
They are professionally trained to help with this sort of problems, and they might have a better clue to what’s going on than anybody else you can visit.
How to avoid back problems from sewing? You want to maintain a good posture while sitting down. You also want to make sure your cutting and ironing area is set up properly, so you don’t lean forward while working. Make sure to stretch often and take little walks around the room.
How to avoid neck pain from sewing? Make sure you stretch out often. Do neck rotations without applying force, you should always be careful when stretching your neck. Get a good shoulder and neck rub after sitting at the sewing machine.