While the press is touting Botox as the next cure-all for everything from wrinkles to writer’s cramp, anyone who has ever had to write the old fashioned way – with a pen and paper – knows that spending the better part of a day pushing a pen can have its share of pain.
Even such an innocuous task as writing can come with its share of risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Force, awkward postures, repetition and duration can all be associated with putting a pen to paper. So for the worker who still pushes a pen for most of the day, the way to try to prevent a writing-related MSD is to minimize the impact of writing.
“For someone who writes a lot, important factors to look at would be how much force is needed to get the pen to write, the placement of whatever is being written on, the shape and style of pen, and the possibility of changing tasks or taking short breaks,” says Ergoweb Inc.’s Rachel Michael, M.Sc., AEP. Michael notes that often, workers who consider their jobs to be mostly comprised of computer work can still be logging in substantial time behind the pen. “Even if you don’t consider handwriting a major part of your daily tasks, it is well worth it to evaluate the time you do spend writing for any MSD risk factors,” says Michael.
Michael’s experience has shown that the writing itself may not always be the problem. “What we commonly find is that the person is reaching around the keyboard or phone or over a sandwich to make notes. This can actually pose significant repetition of awkward postures,” says Michael.
According to Michael, altering a writing workstation to fit the writer is just one of a number of ways to help prevent writing-related MSDs. For more information and tips on preventing writing-related MSDs, see the March, 2003 issue of The Ergonomics Report (TM).