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Don't Let Writing Cramp Your Style - Ergonomic Tips for Pain-Free Writing


Technically, “writer’s cramp” is not an overuse syndrome. Writer’s cramp is a problem of incoordination and loss of control of movement arising in the basal ganglia of the brain. Its cause is unknown. The symptoms are localized, sustained muscle contractions that cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures when a person performs a specific, fine motor task such as writing. Pain and cramping is uncommon, although discomfort in the forearm wrist and fingers may be present. (Sources: www.dystonia.ie; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/dystonia)


Although true writer’s cramp is a rare syndrome, hand pain, muscle fatigue and cramping from repetitive writing is not. Even if writing is not a large part of the job, writing can contribute to the development of repetitive strain injuries. Forceful gripping of the pen and pressing the tip onto the paper, awkward positioning of the pen or the paper, contact stress from holding the pen or leaning on the wrist or forearm are all risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders. In addition to addressing the keyboard and mouse as contributing factors to hand, wrist and forearm pain, writing technique should also be considered.


As early as 1700, Bernardino Ramazzini, considered to be the founder of occupational and industrial medicine, wrote that "the incessant driving of the pen over paper causes intense fatigue of the hand and the whole arm because of the continuous . . . strain on the muscles and tendons." (Source: www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/428.html)

In 1995, almost 300 years after Ramazzini described the occupational hazards associated with writing, the first ergonomic pen was introduced to the mass market. The Dr. Grip pen, with a rubberized and wide-body barrel was designed with the purpose of increasing writing comfort.

Several other wide-body pens followed quickly thereafter including the PhD and the BIC XXL. All of these styles followed the quill, stick-style design.

Recently, the ergonomics of writing have been addressed with alternative pen designs that fit the hand better and reduce the pressure and tension of writing. These pens are breaking away from the standard stick-pen look. Such designs include the EZ Grip, the PenAgain, the RingPen, and the EvoPen.

A Review of Ergonomically Designed Pens


The following are some writing tips to reduce your risk of hand and arm pain.

To Reduce Force

To Avoid Awkward Postures
To Reduce Contact Stress
To Reduce Repetitive Writing Movement

For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.

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