|This is so completely obvious now that I feel embarrassed posting it. But at the time it was a revelation and maybe there is someone out there that this tip will help!
I have been using the same seam ripper for years and on a whim bought a new one with a slightly larger handle. Wow what a difference - not the handle, but the new sharp blade. It made such a difference in ripping seams compared to the old one which was obviously blunt. It's never a nice job to do, but so much easier with a decent blade, and less likely to pull and damage fabric
I know to change needles and sharpen scissors but for some reason it never occured to me to change my seam ripper.