Writer's Cramp


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Writer's Cramp

Writer’s cramp

When focal hand dystonia affects writing, this is called writer’s cramp. Writing can become painful and written work less legible. There are two types: simple and dystonic.
Simple writer’s cramp is usually caused by over-use of the hand, poor writing posture or poor penhold. The resulting muscle strain can cause the writer to press down too hard on the paper and can lead to spasms and pain.

Symptoms of simple writer’s cramp only appear during writing and include some or all of the following:

  • Gripping the pen too hard
  • Extension of the finger during writing making the pen difficult to hold
  • Unusual postures of the wrist or elbow

These can make writing very difficult. Sometimes tremor is also a symptom although this is unusual. In many cases, symptoms are exacerbated by tension.

In a minority of cases, difficulties in writing are caused by dystonic writer’s cramp which may occur together with a more generalised dystonia that can affect other parts of the body as well. In this case, the involuntary movements and muscle cramps can also be apparent when undertaking other non-writing tasks such as using a knife and fork or applying makeup etc.
There is no cure for writer’s cramp but many individuals benefit from techniques to help them ‘retrain’ their muscles and ‘unwind’ the problems with hand posture and pressure, one by one.

Often there is a need to relax not only hands but attitudes to handwriting too. Click here to read about exercises that some people with Simple Writer's Cramp have found helpful

Some people with writer’s cramp can gain benefit from treatment with drugs either on their own or together with regular injections. There are a variety of tablets that can be helpful, although none are universally successful and side effects can occur.

Mary Buck

Elizabeth Ratcliffe

 

Last reviewed December 2011

Disclaimer
The Dystonia Society provides the information on this page as general information only. It is not intended to provide instruction and you should not rely on this information to determine diagnosis, prognosis or a course of treatment. It should not be used in place of a professional consultation with a doctor.
The Dystonia Society is not responsible for the consequences of your decisions resulting from the use of this information, including, but not limited to, your choosing to seek or not to seek professional medical care, or from choosing or not choosing specific treatment based on the information. You should not disregard the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider because of any information you receive from us. If you have any health care questions, please consult the relevant medical practitioner.

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