|They can have my fountain pen when they pry it from my gnarled, cramped fingers|
So today, I see a Dr. Komaroff column addressing writer's cramp:
With writer's cramp, the muscles of your fingers, hand or forearm cramp or spasm during writing. Why does this happen? The precise reasons are uncertain, but it is possible that insufficient nerve signals from your hand into your spinal cord and brain lead to an inadequate "relaxation signal" from your brain to your hand.No identifiable cause? Look through the penmanship forum at The Fountain Pen Network, and you'll find people claiming that fatigue and cramping are brought on by relying too much on one's fingers when writing. These posters advocate writing from the shoulder on down. I'm pretty sure my handwriting book (Getty and Dubay, Write Now) says to do the same thing. This is supposed to be not just a way of keeping one's arm an fingers relaxed (which seems intuitive), but also to give greater control of the pen (which strikes me as counterintuitive).
Most cases of writer's cramp have no identifiable cause. But in rare cases, writer's cramp may result from disc disease in the neck, certain drugs (such as lithium), or brain disease (including stroke or tumors).
When I began my (still uncompleted) quest a few years ago to make my handwriting legible, I tried following the advice to use more than just my fingers to move the pen, but I haven't been able to adjust to that. My fingers keep taking over, and my forearm will tense up after just a few minutes. So, I take breaks. But believe it or not, drugs are not out of the question for everyone. Among recommendations to relax the hand, not concentrating too hard on your handwriting, and hypnosis, there's this:
With your doctor's supervision you may try certain medications. These include trihexyphenidyl (Artane), propranolol (Inderal, others) or botulinum toxin (Botox) injections. They seem to help some people, although there are not many good studies of this treatment.I think I'm going to give that whole "write from the shoulder" thing another try.