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bread kneading 'injury"

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rubato456's picture
rubato456

bread kneading 'injury"

need some advice.....i love to knead bread by hand and i have good upper body strength.....i really enjoy the process of feeling the dough and being in tune with the gluten development. it's not my back, or my neck or my spine that is 'giving out' but one of my index fingers......and the funny thing is, it's not my dominant hand (i'm left handed) but my right index finger. i don't do much with that hand except use the dough scraper to scrape the dough up off the board once in a while. my index finger is swollen and stiff.....i don't know if it's arthritis or bursitis.....has it stopped my baking bread? of course not, but what finnally is getting me to the doctor is that i have to type most of the day w/ my job and it is getting very painful to do this, as well as what i do in the ktchen for fun.

 any tips or suggestions to help my fingers would be appreciated. yes, i have  a big kitchen aid 12 cup food processor. but i really would rather knead by hand.....i started out using the food processor, but it is a pain to clean....and not as much of a zen experience as kneading by hand...at least for me.  

mcs's picture
mcs

Of course I'm not a doctor (I only play one on TV), but I would try some exercises for both hands to increase their flexibility and strength.  Both closing and opening motions are important-closing being something like squeezing a ball, opening being putting all of your fingers inside a rubber band and spreading them out).  There's lots of things you can do in that manner, just be sure not to push it too hard or quickly. 
As far as the actual kneading goes, maybe try warming up your fingers before you start (those exercises) and taking ibuprofen or an anti inflammatory when you're done.  If that doesn't work, you can go to the no-knead method, or the stretch and fold method.
I do think it's important to try your best to work symmetrically so you don't end up favoring one side and aggravating it in the long run.
Oh, and my disclaimer is "Be sure to check with your physician before starting this or any other exercise program."

-Mark 

http://thebackhomebakery.com

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Incidentally, you should also look at your kneeding technique.  Kneeding doesn't need to be a deeply physical activity.  Just look at the kneeding videos on sourdoughhome.com... he doesn't actually use his arms much, and instead relies on his body for providing pressure to work the dough, and he does so at a very slow, relaxed pace.

'course, you could also switch to other types of dough that don't involve traditional kneeding.  Maybe work on ciabatta or other high-hydration doughs for a while. :)

rubato456's picture
rubato456

well the verdict is arthritis..... :-(

i asked about doing the exercises which i thought sounded like a good idea but my doctor said that i should not. he said that i should try to maintain as much normal activity level as possible, but not to do additional hand exercises. he said to take antiinflamatory med and that i may need a cortisone shot in the joint. :-(

i may consider that as the joint is quite swollen and painful. i am in the midst of doing 2 challah recipes tonite, one sourdough and one sweet potato. i've never done a high hydration dough such as a ciabatta. i usually do 100 % whole grain or as close to it as i can get. the challah's im doing to nite are about 50 % whole wheat so they are less demanding that the usual dough i work with. i appreciate the suggestions very much!  

deborah

cdnDough's picture
cdnDough

Just curious, how did your doc establish the diagnosis of arthritis?  Arthritis is certainly a very common cause of joint inflammation but it is not the only cause.  Playing the numbers game, he/she is probably correct.  However, I'm interested to know if you have had any blood work or imaging studies done?

My best advice is to take it easy and avoid kneading by hand (at least using a conventional technique where the dough is rolled from the fingers and pressed with the palms).  If that is your style, either adopt a new one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvdtUR-XTG0) or think about buying a stand mixer.  Your hand may recover in time but, for the moment at least, you are probably best to rest it and wait for the immediate inflammation to go down. 

rubato456's picture
rubato456

of the hand and palpated the joints...asking me about how it felt when he asked me to do certain movements....i am 51 years old so i guess i'm getting to the age where these things happen. i type quite a bit on my job, play the piano alot and of course do lots of cooking, housework etc so i guess it takes a toll after this much time. i am going to try to take a bit easier for a while. i've heard ppl mention this stretch and fold technique, i guess i need to look into that. funny thing is i really enjoy getting into the hard kneading......i guess it's a stress relivers of sorts. (pretend my bosses face is the dough.....you know.....;-) 

deborah

rubato456's picture
rubato456

watched the link and that is a very interesting technique. i wonder if it would work as well w/ a 100 whole wheat dough....dough he used was clearly white flour.  

deborah

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

It's so unfair, I often think, when arthritis strikes people who use their hands so much, especially bakers.  I've got it in my hands, wrists, knees, and various other parts of me, but I was darned if I was going to give up kneading bread.  My hands were so bad one day, that part way through the kneading I ended up using my elbows to push the dough!  I can feel your pain, as your politicians love to say ad nauseam, and it can be very frustrating.  When my wrists are bad, I push the dough with my fists, rather than end up in agony using the heels of my hands.  It started in me about twenty or thirty years ago, and I'm sixty-three now and I'm still hand-kneading.  The only thing that finally stopped me was when I broke my shoulder last year, but even then, I let the KitchenAid do the work, took the dough out, gritted my teeth, and did the last little bit with my left hand.

rubato456's picture
rubato456

the warm soapy water feels good on the sore joints......doc said this was good too....warm soaks. it's a therapy of sorts. 

deborah

KansasGirlStuckInMaryland's picture
KansasGirlStuck...

You should ask your doctor about paraffin dips.  While you can have them done at many manicure shops you can also purchase a home paraffin machine for under $40.  I love mine.  When my hands are feeling especially stiff and achy I crank it up.  I lost the mitts that came with a long time ago, but found that my oversized oven mitts work just as well if not better as they tend to hold the heat in longer.

  Anne

cdnDough's picture
cdnDough

A slightly better video describing the same technique is at

 http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/video/2008/03/bertinet_sweetdough

If you've had an xray and it confirms a diagnosis of arthritis, you may want to inquire about the sub-type as the treatments and prognosis does differ considerably between the various types. The truth is that at 51, you're probably going to need to adapt to it.  You may want to seek advice from an occupational therapist regarding your day job.  I'd definitely avoid things that hurt at this stage as you want to minimize cartilage damage.  Keep in mind that while both NSAIDs and SAIDs can improve joint function and ease your pain at this point, it is quite likely that you'll continue damaging the joint unless your use/habits change.

rubato456's picture
rubato456

for your comments and info.....very much appreciated! 

deborah