The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

kneading with arthritis

hullaf's picture

kneading with arthritis

Argh . . . Monday morning is not the time for me to knead bread with my hands -- rheumatoid arthritis. What does one do when the hands get stiff? I'm trying to make a sourdough multigrain bread this morning by hand, I love Hamelman's recipes, but the amount or big batch of dough is just too much for me. I usually halve his recipes but my eagerness got ahead of me today and I tried the whole thing! Well, I did a bit by machine and a bit by hand but didn't get it all kneaded well. I am folding an extra time as it rises even though it seems heavy (wait, . . . just folded a third time and it is lightening up some.) 

I've learned that for my 'rheumatism' when kneading to . . . #1 use less amounts of whole wheat and grains, #2 try later in the day when there is less ache and stiffness, #3  make looser dough, #4 get the room warm, #5 try more by machine (though, I do find kneading comforting), and #6 experiment more with the S+F methods. More topics on TFL lately are doing the stretch-and-fold or the french fold which I've been doing but sometimes just the mixing by hand is difficult. And I'm not "fond" of the no-knead recipes, I don't like the simpler tastes of them. I want the depth of whole wheat taste and gluten development. 

The weather is colder this morning too so that is a factor. And can you believe it, it is lightly snowing this morning, in Tennessee!      Anet

PaddyL's picture

I've often started off kneading bread with my arthriticky hands, only to wind up pushing it around with my fists.  Once, after a session of juicing pomegranates had me almost crippled, I started hand-kneading and ended up using my elbows!  It's one of the most frustrating things of my life, and painful, but if I'm not making a lot of dough, I'll let the mixer do most of the kneading, and finish it up by hand or fist.

clazar123's picture

I think the best you can do is use the machine for mixing and a healthy time with the dough hook to "knead" and then fold.

Could be a good dishwashing session in nice warm water in the morning before you knead may help loosen  the joints up and then an icing session or cold water dunk after the knead to reduce any inflammation  could be helpful.



Paddyscake's picture

Mike Avery has been a frequent contributer and I have learned alot from his contributions and web site. Watch the videos first. I think that will entice you to read the rest.


Soundman's picture

Hi Anet,

I know where you're coming from. Though my aches are more in my legs than my hands, my wrists sometimes just don't feel like kneading dough. Your own list of solutions sounds like you have really covered the territory pretty well. "Make smaller batches" isn't in your list but I'm sure you know that as well.

Kneading may sometimes be comforting, but when it's not, I suggest using your mixer to build some gluten into the dough (just 2 or 3 minutes on medium) and from there on just fold the dough. Use the "envelope" method: pat the dough out some, then stretch it and fold 1/3 down, turn 180 degrees, stretch and fold the rest down over, seal, then turn 90 degrees and do it all over again if it allows you to. Do that every hour or so and you will feel the dough get stronger in pretty short order. Such folding is comforting too, though maybe not so much as kneading, but takes a whole lot less muscle than pushing your hands hard into the resistant dough.

Final thought: it's been bandied about here on TFL that less kneading may actually help produce the larger holes and open crumb that some of us love in our bread. So give your hands a break; folding is fun!

Soundman (David)

hullaf's picture

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. The holidays are coming and I love to give away bread as gifts. 

Soundman + others -- I have done the envelope method, of course, but if I knead less on the machine, what are the parameters for how many times I do the folding? Until it folds no more, till the preferment time suggested in the recipe, and every 30-40-or-60 minutes? Some whole wheat bread recipes already have a firm dough. I like the multigrain kinds and the added seeds too and they also add firmness.  Anet