How to stop painful leg muscle cramps
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Writer’s cramp affects between seven and 69 per million people of the entire population. It isn’t exclusive to writers, however. This achy hand condition impacts anyone who uses their hands repetitively, such as musicians, chefs, gardeners, someone who uses their phone or laptop too much, and so on. The issue is most common in those aged 30 to 50 and affects men more often than women. Think you’ve got writer’s cramp? Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out everything you need to know about writer’s cramp.
When a large quantity of handwriting or words typed is required under pressure, such as during an examination or a busy working day, you might experience writer’s cramp.
This is normal and expected, but a more severe form of writer’s cramp can occur in the form of dystonia.
Dr Lee said: “Dystonia is a focal neuromuscular disorder in which the hand goes into involuntary spasms, which may be painful. When this occurs in the hand, it is also termed writer’s cramp (WC).”
Writer’s cramp is also said to be a form of dystonia, which makes the hands move in abnormal postures and positions when performing certain tasks.
Annoyingly, the underlying cause of writer’s cramp isn’t known.
However, it may be genetic because up to 20 percent of those affected have an affected family member.
Dr Lee added: “Studies have shown writer’s cramp in writers is more common in those with a college degree, and is also more likely in those who spend a lot of time writing every day.
“The onset typically occurs a year or so after a sudden increase in the amount of writing.
“MRI studies suggest sufferers may have developed an abnormality of their inhibitory control – the mechanism allowing an individual to complete a task in a controlled fashion.
“Dopamine transmission has also been noted to be disrupted, within the basal ganglia.”
If you think you have writer’s cramp, it’s important to see your GP for an examination.
This is partly so you can get treatment but partly because your symptoms could also be Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple sclerosis, Wilson’s disease, or another neurological condition.
When you go to the doctor’s, your GP is likely to arrange tests.
This could include blood tests to check your general health and look for any signs of infection, and an electromyogram (EMG) – which measures the electrical activity in your nerves and muscles.
You may also have a CT or MRI brain scan to exclude any specific causes, such as a brain tumour.
How to treat writer’s cramp
The treatment for writer’s cramp largely depends on what’s causing it and how severe it is.
Dr Lee said that practical options may be helpful. For example, writing using a modified pen, a change of keyboard, or wearing a thin glove while playing an instrument. Transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TENS) has been used with success.
There is no established way of preventing the painful problem, but stress, fatigue, and high levels of agitation are risk factors for the condition to progress. So, it makes sense to try and keep these factors to a minimum.
Medical options include anticholinergic drugs such as Artane (trihexyphenidyl) to reduce the nerve impulses in the affected nerves and muscles, or an alternative drug called Xenazine (tetrabenazine).
Some people with writer’s cramp have found botulinum toxin injections to be effective, while others have needed neurosurgery with deep brain stimulation or ablation of a specific area to solve the problem.
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