This week we are celebrating National Ballpoint Pen Day. I don’t know about you, but over the years I have become VERY particular regarding the writing implements that I use.  I definitely have my favorite pens, and get SUPER excited when I see them on sale, in bulk, at places like Costco and Office Depot.

So much of my love of pens has to do with how they feel in my hand, how smoothly they write and whether or not they end up leaving marks on my fingers.  The marks usually come from me holding the pen too tight, or working for too long.  Did you know that there is actually a correct way to hold the pen?

As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, one of the most common issues that I work with is pen grasp, and writing in general.  As I began my studies, my first niece was just about the age when she would begin to color and hold a crayon.  From the beginning I would try and try to fix her grasp.  She, like her mother, tended to wrap her thumb around the crayon, leaving very little ‘web-space’ between her thumb and index finger.

 

Why is this important you may ask…well, as we grow, we move through the various developmental stages of holding a pencil. We change from using our ENTIRE arm (shoulder, arm and hand move as one unit) to make any kind of mark on a page (palmar supinate grasp/digital pronate grasp)

 

to mainly using the movement of our fingers to move the pen (dynamic tripod/quadruped grasp) while movement across the page comes from minimal movements of the wrist, elbow and shoulder.

 

Having a nice open ‘web-space’ allows for the smooth, dynamic movement of the fingers in the more mature grasp patterns.  The more closed it is, the more tightly we tend to hold the pen …which in turn leads to fatigue.  When someone complains that they can’t write for long periods of time because their hand gets tired, or they get neck pain while writing, the first thing I do is look at how they are holding their pen.

Don’t get me wrong, there are several other reasons that the fatigue or pain may be occurring.  But typically the number 1 culprit is the way the pen is being held.

Sometimes an improper grasp is just going to stay that way because like it or not, it is functional.  The grasp is not impeding the school work or the child is not fatiguing and can keep up with age appropriate writing skills.  So does my now 14 year old niece hold the pen correctly…no…no she does not. And yes it does bother her OT Aunt.  But what can you do? 🙂