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Why does my back and shoulders hurt when I sew for long hours?

by Sarah

You may not think you have to ask why that happens, you may think it is just part of the process. But you should actually be able to sew without pain. The first tip comes from my friend and Orthopedic surgeon, Dr Michael Reid. Dr Reid says to get up and move around often, don’t spend too much time in one position. Move your iron away from your sewing cabinet so you are forced to get up to iron and do the same with the cutting mat. He also says to stretch from time to time, raise your arms way up and lean to the left and lean to the right. Roll your head around carefully to stretch your neck.

Be aware of your posture.
I suggest you use a good supportive chair and be sure it’s at the perfect height so your feet are flat on the floor, from your feet to your knees straight and thighs parallel to the floor. In other words you want your body to resemble a straight back chair. And speaking of straight back, try to sew with your back straight and your head held high. Avoid poor posture and rounding your shoulders and lowering your head over your work. Obviously you have to lower your head a little to see what you are doing, but try if you can to lower your eyes instead for a while to give the back of your neck some relief. Your arms should be straight out from your elbows (parallel to the floor) so they are not angling down or up to the machine. All the motion of moving your arms forward comes from your shoulders. For the typical sewer the surface of your machine should be about 29 ½” from the floor.
If you set your machine on a 29 or 30 inch table (normal height) your arms will have to be angled up because you have to add 3” for the average machine. Everyone who sets their machine on a table is sewing 3” higher than the perfect height for pain free sewing.

Relax Darn it!
No matter what you are working on, relax… it will hurt less. Sometimes I shake my arms out to help me relax and sometimes I just have to tell myself “relax Sally”. Some people put soothing music on but if you aren’t relaxed you are tightening lots of muscles and they will make you pay. Treat yourself to a healthy sewing environment…you deserve it.
This article was written by Sally Cheney.

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Joyce Jenkins September 15, 2016 - 7:33 pm

I just figured out that while my machine and chair are at the correct height for me, it is too far from the edge of the table when I use my plexiglass surround. Once I took that off and pulled my machine over to the edge of my table, I have had no more neck problems. I hope this helps someone as it took me awhile to figure this out. All the online ergonomic info on sewing machines over looks this variable. It was making me have to reach 4 inches farther which caused my pain.

Sophie thx so much!! August 7, 2015 - 9:02 am

Hi. My name is Sophie. I’m 12 years old have never used an email to contact some one… So please excuse me if i mess up a word or capital. 🙂 Ok first of all, thank you soooooooooooo much for writing this! i felt crafty so i decided to sew one of my stuffed animals a dress. i don’t have or know how to work a sewing machine so i just tried my best to sew by hand. (btw I’ve like, never sewn before so I’m like a total noob) and so i did but like my back started really hurting a lot and it does that a lot because i play on my computer a lot, so i just tried to ignore it because i was at a really hard place on the sewing the dress. but it started to burn. like really burn. it felt like it was on fire LITERALLY!!! so i wanted to find out if there was a medicine or some DIY i could use to helpmeet back feel better but this was also really great because for most of it i assume you can use for just daily life too. like if ur writing a paper, to stretch and roll your head around. So thx 🙂 (if u get this plz respond 🙂 )

Sarah August 21, 2015 - 8:55 am

Welcome to wonderful world of sewing! Protecting your back is very important, as it will only get worse if not addressed.


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