Writer’s Cramp Demystified

September 1, 2017 Brain Diseases 10642 Views


You may have heard of a writer’s block, a condition where a writer feels like he is losing his creative abilities. The writer may not be able to think of anything novel and imaginative, thereby resulting in his inability to write any new work. Well a writer’s cramp is something similar, not in its cause but in its outcome, meaning this condition too, may abstain the writer from being able to write anything, quite literally.

What is Writer’s Cramp?

A writer’s cramp is task-specific focal dystonia of the hand, fingers, and forearm. Physicians also call it mogigraphia or scrivener’s palsy. Dystonia refers to a condition wherein a person’s muscles contract uncontrollably and involuntarily. It is a neurological movement disorder which affects a singular muscle, a group of muscles or the entire body. When we say that a writer’s cramp is task-specific focal dystonia. We mean that it only adheres to a specific group (focal) of muscles (of the hand). And you can only feel it while performing certain specific tasks such as writing.

A writer’s cramp can be of two types: simple and dystonic. A simple writer’s cramp is that in which the symptoms are felt while performing one task. In a dystonic writer’s cramp, symptoms may be generalized to other fine motor tasks of the hand as well, such as picking up items and gripping or holding objects. One can also notice other conditions similar to a writer’s cramp in other fields and activities such as while playing an instrument (musician’s cramp), in sports persons (especially in golfers, known as yips) and also in typists.

Some Symptoms of Writer’s Cramp

A writer’s cramp can cause symptoms such as loss of muscle coordination which would result in involuntary activities of the hand such as trembling and, flexing and contraction of muscles which would result in an inability to grip objects and consequently dropping them. Aching and cramping of the hand muscles can also be seen.

A person may be able to notice these symptoms even when he/she as much as picks the pen or before they manage to write a few words. Other extremely minor activities can cause these symptoms. One may also feel other symptoms like inability to sleep and exhaustion as a result of excessive muscle and brain activity. The stress caused by this condition can also manifest in other stress-related disorders like the temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD).

This condition affects people between 30-50 years of age. Physicians don’t know what causes it. However hereditary or genetic causes or an injury to the brain may result in the onset of this syndrome. No singular test is available at this point in time which can provide a concrete diagnosis for this syndrome. A physical and neurological exam coupled with the symptoms can help the neurologist or neurosurgeon diagnose the condition. Unfortunately, treatment options are also not specific and doctors have failed to generalize a singular treatment to all cases. The best way to prevent a writer’s cramp is to avoid the activities that induce it. In some cases, the use of Botox injections has shown significant improvement. Other techniques such as bio-feedback (a muscle relaxation technique) and physical therapy may prove beneficial. Certain assisted-devices can also be used to aid in activities and ease pain.

Book an appointment with your nearest neurologist and learn more about this disease. 

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