Quilting Isn’t for Sissies!







A quilter without neck, back or shoulder issues? I haven’t encountered one yet, and this includes me!.  Whether I’m sitting at my domestic machine or standing at the longarm, I find that I cannot escape the army of pain that will soon invade my neck and shoulders.

Me vs. Neck and Shoulder Pain

In order to combat the inevitable I have taken to “warming up” my muscles before I venture into quilting for the day.  Why?  Well, those of us who quilt are engaging in an activity that is as physically taxing on our body as those that work out at the gym.  Would you consider kickboxing, or lifting weights prior to performing some stretches?  No, I highly doubt it.  Think of quilting in the same manner, believe it or not we are applying pressure and weight on various body muscles to quilt.  And just like any other form of exercise, over time and use these body parts begin to hurt!

Life with Bikram Yoga


Last June, I started attending Bikram Yoga and the results have made a HUGE difference.  Some of the stretches that I complete in yoga are the same stretches I carry out prior to quilting.  In addition, I also try to pause in the middle of my quilting to incorporate further stretching as I attempt to keep my body relaxed as possible.  Here are some of the yoga poses that I find beneficial.

Half moon, Eagle, triangle, bow, camel (which I hate), and rabbit.  If you are interested in more poses here is a link for ALL 26 (yes 26)… Bikram yoga.  Don’t hesitate to investigate YouTube, it’s a great resource for tons of videos that will demonstrate many valuable stretches!


Beyond Yoga

Don’t neglect the neck!  Changing your neck’s position whether you are piecing or quilting is crucial to pain-free designing.  During periods that require piecing, I will vary the height of my chair by lowering or raising it in order to prevent any undo stress.  This is also done when I am quilting.   Now if you are lucky enough to have a hydraulic lift for your machine, all the better for your body! This will enable you to alternate your choices of siting, or standing.  Moreover, you will have the flexibility of raising and lowering the table.  My lift is a must have, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it!


What types of things do you do to combat the aches and pains while enduring the  physical job or hobby of quilting?

16 thoughts on “Quilting Isn’t for Sissies!

  1. I get a massage regularly. The massage therapist can work on specific areas such as my neck, shoulders and low back. I feel like I grow 2 inches afterwards.

  2. I try not to do one thing too long. I will cut smaller batches, then sew, then iron then trim and sew again. Maybe making 5 to 10 blocks at a time. Then I put them on my design wall and admire them. As I use lots of fabrics, it also lets me see what works and what is missing. Then I may plan dinner and pull something from the freezer to thaw, or check out the garden. I try and do things that require focusing on a distance that is longer than my arm. As well as taking care of my neck and shoulders, I need to take care of my vision as well.

  3. I do a video program of stretching called “Classical Stretch” by Miranda Edmond White. I found it on PBS early in the morning about 6 years ago and started watching it and doing it. Most local PBS stations carry it, usually at about 6 am Mon-Fri. It really helped me heal and get my range of motion back after a shoulder injury to both shoulders and rotator cuffs sustained while working out with a trainer at the gym!! They don’t always know what’s right for YOUR body. So I purchased the Classical Stretch DVDs and love her method which promotes healing in a really easy-does-it fashion. You don’t have to be a yogi to do her method.
    I’m sure almost any quilter can do it and will find it helpful. I do also get regular massages, about every 5 weeks! I love to do very dense free-motion quilting, but I don’t do long arm quilting. I have a sit down mid-arm instead and love it. And I think due to my previous shoulder injury, I won’t ever purchase a long arm. I’m very active and can walk miles, and do yoga, but It would put too much stress having my arms extended out in front of me for hours each day. Sitting and guiding the fabric is easier for me.

  4. I keep a microwavable neck wrap in the studio and 5 minutes out of every hour it is in use. I also stand up to see and my ironing board is 20 feet away which makes me get more steps in the day too. When I’m using the longarm my go to help is shoulder rolls, lunges, and back bends. Just a few seconds helps me stand straight and at my age that is a miracle after 45years in office settings.

    • You know, due to space constraints I never had thought about my ironing board, but by it being in the other room, I am circulating more blood to more places by moving about the house, that must help.

  5. I find if I stand while quilting, my feet tell me when they are tired better than the muscles in my neck in back. Wearing my bifocals keep me from jutting my chin outward to put my neck in a non-ergonomic position. I have also timed my bobbin. I can quilt for about an hour per bobbin which is a great time to take a break

  6. I love the fact that someone addressed the issue of necessary “pain management” when quilting. Maybe I’m just getting old(er)… or maybe it might have something to do with the fact that I have chronic back pain but, sometimes I have to really psyche myself up to finish a quilting project. Never mind that I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator (ha!). I love quilting more than almost anything but, some days I have to do something less physical, like knitting! Anyway, it’s reassuring to know I’m in pretty good company concerning back and neck pain some times when quilting.

  7. First of all, Lisa, that quilt is exquisite. You have a GIFT!! My goodness… your quilting is unbelievably beautiful! Unfortunately I, too, suffer with aches and pains which I must attribute to quilting. As I get older, I notice little things like my hands but, I don’t think I’m going to stop quilting any time soon. I’m in the process of buying a fabric cutter. That should alleviate some of the physical stress and free up a lot of TIME! I wish i could do yoga but, I have chronic back pain which really limits my exercising. Stretching helps a bit and just trying to stay in fairly good shape is important since i can’t do much regular exercises. Bottom Line: Quilting Isn’t for Sissies!!!

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