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Macramé as Therapy and Rehabilitation

This page is done in honor of the Physical Therapist and Occupational Hand Therapists who have helped me recover from a severely broken arm and dislocated wrist and totally useless hand, and a battle to keep my arm from ballooning -- a legacy of breast cancer called lymphedema. Hand therapy is a specialized field. Structure-specific treatment can be crucial to recovering a good function of the hand. Between 5% and 20% of therapists use macramé as often as one time per week or more. Knotting increases bilateral dexterity, fine motor control and can also be used as an outlet for frustration. Finishing the projects also does much for failing self-esteem.

Engaging both mind and body promotes improved performance and purposeful activity is self-healing. With hand activity, in therapy, in contrast to passive treatment, doing a meaningful task such as macramé, is very helpful and healing. Purposeful activities are considered superior to isolated exercise in promoting coordination and improved quality of motion.

First some history about macramé, macramé is an ancient craft of knotting first used by the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Maoris and the Peruvians. The word itself is Arabic in origin meaning a veil of protection, a towel or napkin with a fringe. Macramé probably migrated with sailors, who use a lot of knots in their work, and are skilled at their use. As they migrated to different places via of the sea, they also taught the knotting skills to others. Some of the knots used by sailors are not suitable to use in macramé while others definitely are. Names of knots are often different and yet the knot is the same, I am presently doing some research into the different names of the knots, and trying to add them as I'm able to my knots page. For now only those used in my projects appear there.

When I told the Occupational Therapy that I did macramé, she jumped for joy as she knew this would help bring back the strength in my hand that was totally useless when I first saw her and help strengthen not only my fingers, but my wrist which still is on the mend.

Macramé can be done with almost no tools, and I laughed when they told me there were four basic knots. As I've always enjoyed doing more complicated knots in my projects. I do know that many projects can be done with it, including belts, key chains, jewelry, plant hangers, purses, hanging tables, wall hangings and wine racks. I'm not into making belts, key chains, jewelry or purses, but you will probably find other things on here as I progress with my recovery.

I not only work on my projects at Occupational Therapy, but at home and know that it also can be used to provide an outlet to the frustration of such a long recovery. As the projects have progressed, I have had to hang them and work in positions that are more helpful to recovery, as well as those knots that I'm unable to do in a position that has been totally useful to my recovery.

By watching how I was pulling my knots tight, the therapist was able to instruct me in ways to make both hands work the same way and help bring back the use of my right hand. I am a long way from complete recovery, but with macramé as a working tool for me, I am confident that I will regain full use of my hand, wrist and arm.

This has been an interesting recovery as I've been able to complete three projects so far and now that some of the swelling has subsided in my hand and forearm, I am able to move the fingers a little easier. I have other projects started and as I complete them, I will add them to my web pages with instructions, as I don't follow any directions, and have enjoyed writing them for the projects just recently completed. It also makes me type my two hours a day, that helps keep my fingers limber and so as a visitor to my site I hope you will enjoy my completed projects.

July, 1999

I went to therapy for a much longer time than is normal, but then this was a very bad break and dislocation. In fact I'm told that my hand and arm where completely misaligned by my accident. I have been able to keep in contact with both therapist and have heeded their advice to not give up.

Well it's been three months since I last went to therapy and although I now know that I did permanent damage to my wrist, creating new sockets and forever messing up the alignment of my hand to my arm, I am still improving. There are tasks I'm unable to perform, but have been trying to focus on those that I can. I have been to other doctors and they were surprised at the use I have regained, versus what they saw on the x-rays that show my progress through all this. This progress I credit to the therapists who worked so hard with me.

I have not given up on regaining full use regardless of what the x-rays say! I continue to type daily and have been working on getting my fingers to move more and more. I have begun to use our spa for working with the hand to get the index and middle finger to make a complete fist. I still have swelling between the index and middle figure. The wrist still does not allow full movement and things like peeling a potato are frustrating and very painful. Fortunately I have had others to do those chores for me. While in the spa, I'm almost able to make a complete fist and for a short time after using the spa. But the stiffness comes back each time so far. I've been encourage by others not to give up, and will continue to work on this. When I started this long recovery I couldn't even lift a loaf of bread with my hand, I still am a long way from full recovery, but after 10 months I have some limited strength in my hand. I am finally to the point where I'm not afraid to shake someone's hand, for fear they will hurt me.

October, 1999

I fell again and at that time put the hand more in place than it had been. I am still working on macramé and have just finished the table I had been working on, and have started on some hangers that I want to do. I am still regaining use of the hand and wrist and am still doing my two hours a day typing to keep my fingers limber. I still wake up with stiff hands and especially stiff fingers, but the stiffness does leave me after some exercise in the morning, and the pain although still present has subsided some.

I feel as though I have regained most of the use of the hand back, but still have a ways to go on strength. I can now lift an iron skillet, just can't do anything with it, once I have lifted it!! My wrist moves much better, but not with the same easiness as the other one. I've managed to finally peel a potato and not have tears coming down my face!! A big accomplishment for me, and I'm proud of this as, I really thought it would be a chore I would have to let others do for me. My index finger is still not able to come back to make a complete fist, but the swelling between it and the middle finger has gone away. It's been 13 months since my first fall now and the second fall was 4 months ago. There is still some disfigurement, but I feel with continued work, I'll be able to do most things I was able to do before. Because I created new sockets for it, that disfigurement might always be there. I've been told the grinding in my wrist can at some later point cause some problem, but for now just being able to do most things has been good for me. I'm to check back with the doctor about that in ten years!!!

I don't usually pat myself on the back, but I have worked very hard on this, and am proud of myself. Why did I not accept the fact that I might not be able to use my hand, wrist and arm?

One reason is because my mom said I had to regain as much use as possible. Although, I know she'll never see this site, "THANKS MOM" you've been a constant source of encouragement for me, teasing me when I knocked it almost into place by a freak accident, and then again when I fell and really put it back in place. Her comment was "Don't fall again, You've fixed it."

Two because I just couldn't accept being so limited in what I can do, don't like to be told that "I can't do things". I've always been a rather independent person.

Since the weather here has been dry and warm, I'm curious to see if the up coming fall and winter time cause me any problems. As that's when the rains come around here and cooler weather. We have a very dry heat here in the Sierra Foothills.

I've looked back and again want to thank the ladies who helped me so much with my therapy, my Physical Therapist "Mrs. No Pain No Gain", who with out her attitude and hard work I'd probably have totally given up. She worked so hard to try and get it back in alignment. The Occupational Hand Therapist, "Mrs. It Really Doesn't Have To Cause Pain", who worried so as she watched the tears stream down my face as I used all those neat "toys" to regain use of my hand and to get the swelling down. I miss your great massages. Her innovated use of the strangest things helped me. And to all the "Interns" who stood over me in amazement, watching me work on my macramé projects as they took shape and encouraging me so much.

Also the gentlemen, to my "Dentist" who provided me with rubber gloves, that I cut the fingers off, and used the fingers as rubber bands to pull the fingers in tighter so that I can now almost make a fist! To my new doctors who encouraged me to not give up without regaining full use. To all the other people who at some point in their lives had taken a fall or were injured and encouraged me not to give up, but to keep trying. I'm also glad I did not accept the first orthopedics diagnoses of "No you'll never be able to use it again like you could".

Because I ran out of cord and was unable to do the macramé for about 2 months, I have come to realize that I will be doing a lot of this to keep my fingers, hands and wrist working in a manner that I will be content with. I may also try other things such as crocheting as it helps with the use of fingers and wrist movements, and hopefully I will be able to make candles again, since I am regaining the ability to lift and pour things!

March, 2000

Well time to add some more comments, I can now do just about every thing! Wow, wasn't sure I'd ever get to say that! My last conquest was shuffling a deck of cards. No one likes to play when you can't shuffle your own cards. Little things, yes, but they were very irritating to me. I was told the other day by a lady who has kept a close eye on me, that both wrists now look about the same, she was quite shocked at that. I'm still typing to keep my fingers limber typing and also doing macramé. I also can make a fist now, not quite as tight as before, but it's still a fist! We had a very wet February and I didn't have a lot of pain from this injury, I no longer wake up with stiffness and the swelling is totally gone! There's no grinding any more. So I consider myself quite fortunate to have conquered this.

July, 2000

How could I have forgotten my husband and sons who's help through all this has been terrific. And the friends who have appreciated all the projects I have made and they have so been so nice to accept, even with the many mistakes in them. I've had a lot of fun writing this and the instructions on this web site. I sure hope you have enjoyed it.

November, 2000

Having just read a very informative article on breast cancer, that I've added to my page. I felt the need to add that I am still doing lots of macramé projects to keep my hand and arm in good working condition. I try hard not to favor this side, but find it is much weaker than I wish it would be.

May, 2003

After working in the yard, I have for the first time experienced the return of the battle to keep my arm from ballooning -- a legacy of breast cancer called lymphedema. My hand is the major culprit and my fingers are trying to get stiff, and yes, I'm still making lots of hangers! I just finished two this week, and also one I'd been working on for a newly decorated room.



I will add comments to this page as well as adding more projects.

Enjoy and Good Knotting!

A article of great interest for those survivors of breast cancer.


This page copyright © 1997-2003 tses

Last updated 9 /7/2003


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