The patient: “Roland,” a local teacher, suffering with hand and wrist pain that seemed to be related to work. He came to me because he wanted relief from the ache in his wrist and lower arm.
How I diagnosed the cause: As we spoke, Roland identified that the problem only occurred when using pen and paper and not while typing on a keyboard—the more that he wrote, the more that his hand cramped up. When I asked him to show me how he was writing, I noticed that he was a lefty, and that he held the pad straight up and down with his writing hand and wrist rotated in a rather cramped-looking position.
How the problem was solved: I pointed out Roland’s uncomfortable writing form to him and suggested that he simply rotate the pad and straighten out his hand and wrist. I mentioned to Roland that when I started in practice after medical school, I had been hired by Robert Atkins, MD (yes that Dr. Atkins) as a staff physician, and oddly enough one factor in my engagement was that I wrote with my left hand. Atkins pointed out that both he and another employee, Carlton Fredericks, PhD, a famous radio announcer and self-styled nutrition pundit, were both lefties and he “trusted” lefties! Atkins had a problem with his hand and wrist cramping and I commented that it was important to be sure to hold our hands straight and wrists unbent while taking notes on patient charts to avoid cramping, and suggested that this simple adjustment might solve his issue. Atkins applied this suggestion and it worked.
How the patient benefited: Roland made this simple adjustment, as Dr. Atkins had, and reported that this simple fix, along with a liniment that I had provided to him, seemed to completely resolve the issue. So, lefties, take note for when taking notes!