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5 Tips to Avoid Repetitive Stress Injuries While Beading or Crafting

When we love what we do, we sometimes get carried away.  But our bodies are not built to withstand repetitive motion and eventually the stress catches up with us. A repetitive stress injury (RSI) such as carpal tunnel syndrome from continual beading (crafting, drawing etc) is not much fun.  Not being able to do what you love is soul destroying.  

De Quervain Syndrome (another form of RSI)

One lovely reader, Carol, wrote to me to ask if there was something she could do about this problem. She said "I am older and after years of hand work, my right hand is in bad shape. I have millions of beads from 30 years of this hobby. I am not ready yet, but would be willing to donate them when the time comes. Right now, I am looking for ideas of how to use the beads without doing so much stitching, the motion that aggravates my hand tendinitis and arthritis."

"Yesterday I just made a simple small mandala and afterwards I had to take Advil and ice my hand. I did not think I had worked more than an hour or so. I lament that I may have to give up my bead passion."

It is a cautionary tale and one we should all heed. I did have a RSI once from computing too much without proper support for my forearm.  6 weeks of physiotherapy and a change to ergonomic furniture later, I learned my lesson.

Carol is not willing to give up just yet.  So here are some tips which can hopefully help.

1. Take Frequent Breaks
This is obvious. Resting lets the body recover from the abuse and intense work.

2. Vary Your Activity
Holding a needle for hours on end is not a good thing for either your fingers, hands and even neck.   So change your technique.  Switching from beading to say resin clay  means working a different set of muscles rather like taking a break.  But you are still making jewelry!

3. Exercise/Stretch
I've tried these exercises shown in this video before and found them useful for mild issues.  They are basic stretching exercises to counter tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.  Best check with your doctor or physiotherapist about this before proceeding.

4. Ergonomic or Power Tools
There are tools out there which could make your crafting life less painful.

Bent Nose Pliers
This humble tool is bent at the tips which means your wrist doesn't have to twist inwards.

Precision Comfort Tool Set 
I reviewed this inexpensive set some time ago.  The pliers were especially comfortable to hold because the handles are already bent so your wrists don't!

Power punch
The type of pliers for punching holes in metal might be a challenge for those with compromised wrists as it takes some force to use them.  I don't think the screw puncher type is much help either  as the repetitive twisting action will hurt for those who already hurt!  I have the Euro Power punch and love how effortless it is to punch metal with it. Leaves clean cuts too. But a little more awkward to change the cutter and die - see the video by Cool Tools here.

Electric tools
A Dremel drill can also help -  it depends if the vibrations will irritate.  A drill press, if you have one, might be the solution to this problem.

Needle Holder 
This is actually a surgical tool.  It is a locking pliers much like the hemostat. I use the hemostat as a very narrow clamp in jewelry making. One crucial difference is that the needle holder has fine crisscross striations which help grip the needle. The hemostat has just a few ridges.

Using it will require a completely different approach to how you bead.  It could be simply an alternative to give you a break from the regular way. The pinching motion to sew is avoided as the needle holder is held in the palm of the hand. Watch this suturing demonstration using a needle holder.  Don't worry, this is NOT an operation if you are at all squeamish about such things.

5. Splints
There are all kinds of support splints with velcro fasteners.  But they are bulky to wear, can dampen fine motor control and have to be removed if you have to wash your hands. Carol told me she found out about Silver Ring Splint from a friend and is looking into them. These are made from sterling silver and look very much like jewelry.  They function as support. There are different kinds depending on the injury or condition (like arthritis). Physician referrals and professional fittings by physiotherapists are required.

Watch this short news clip about the silver splints.

The tool links above are affiliate links. This means I receive a small compensation for anything bought. This helps support this blog as well as provide readers with information about resources.

Before You Go:
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 


  1. very good post indeed pearl, RSI is a very important and bothersome problems for artists and designs

  2. Pearl, great post and thank you for the information. I want to take my time, read and watch. I have had years of large gauge wire creating and as a result have had to have surgery on my right hand twice in the last 1 1/2 years. I only work with smaller gauge now, if at all, and learned to create in different mediums. And watch my time. Thank you.

    1. That's wonderful to hear you are exploring other mediums. I too find wire work hard on the hands and fingers so I switch out to other techniques. I also never get bored.

  3. Good information. I love my bent-nose pliers. They are far and away the best tool I was ever advised to buy -- and of course to buy better quality: never cheap out on tools!

  4. Great post! Thank you so much.

  5. I've had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists and I'm so grateful! The previous pain ruined my life. I couldn't sleep because of the pain and had almost no function in either hand.
    Having a talented surgeon was my answer. And I can't praise him enough for what he did for me.

    So now I protect my wrists and recognize the stress on them almost immediately and stop and rest. It's just not worth not having the use of your hands because of something you love and overdo. It truly isn't.

    Wonderful post Pearl and great response!

    1. I am so glad surgery finally corrected the problem. Surgery is a last resort so for those who are starting to be troubled with RSI, doing things differently will help.

  6. Very useful post, thank you! Making jewelry is my hobby but my hands hurt when I wire weave so I will have to do something about it :)

    1. Wire work and beading are probably the worst offenders as we have to grip something fine (needle, wire). So taking a break from that is a good first start.


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