Writer’s cramp is a cramp or spasm affecting muscles of the hand or fingers. The affected muscles will depend on the task (writing) and the posture of an individual during this repeated task. The symptoms will appear only during this particular movement like writing or playing the piano. Sadly, it is also known to spread and affect many tasks. There are two kinds of writer’s cramp – simple and dystonic.
Simple Writer’s Cramp – People suffering from simple writer’s cramp have difficulty with only one specific task. For example, when the individual picks up a pen to start writing, after writing a few words, the cramped posture of the hand begin to slow down the speed and accuracy of writing.
Dystonic Writer’s Cramp – Symptoms will occur not only during writing but also when performing other tasks like drinking tea/coffee, applying makeup, ironing clothes.
Common symptoms include excessive gripping of the pen, flexing of muscles, and abnormal movement of the wrist or elbow. The individual would often find it difficult to hold on to the pen and keeps dropping the pen. Mild discomfort may occur in the fingers, wrist, or forearm. It affects people between the ages of 30 and 50 years, both men and women. A similar situation can be observed in musicians playing certain instruments, typists and golfers. While it is not fatal or life threatening in any way, it definitely can be a chronic disorder and how it progresses after that is difficult to tell. As is with other diseases, the sooner it is treated, lesser will be the complications and after effects.
Treatments are designed in such a way that it helps in the lessening of spasms, pain and disturbed postures or functions. Most therapies depend on individual symptoms. No single strategy can be appropriate in every case. What doctors try to achieve by the treatment is to give the individual greatest benefits while incurring the fewest risks. It allows you to lead a productive life by being able to perform tasks normally. Achieving a satisfactory regimen in every case, requires patience on the part of both the affected individual and the physician.
Doctors approach the treatment from three angles – oral medications, botulinum toxin injections and/or surgery. These therapies can be used alone or in combination depending on the acuteness and complexity of the case and an individual’s requirement. A lot of times, additional care like physical therapy and speech therapy are also recommended. It’s important to add here that, there is currently no known cure for dystonia, although, researchers and doctors are gaining a better understanding of Writer’s Cramp and developing new approaches to treatments.
Some steps followed in treatments are given below. You can also start following them in your daily lives if you feel you are prone to Writer’s Cramp someday due to your profession:
- Alter the grip of your pen and/or try increasing the diameter of the pen.
- Use other writing devices or other means of transcription, such as typing or dictation.
- Behavioral changes may help.
- Botulinum toxin injections seem to have the best results.
However, you must consult a neurologist for proper care.