FORM Hand, Wrist & Elbow Institute

What is a Writer’s cramp?

If you think a writer’s cramp is when someone is only writing or using/holding a pen. You are probably right; however, as the name suggests, it is not just confined to writing. A writer’s cramp is a focal dystonia that causes involuntary movements. It is a neurologic disorder in which the brain sends incorrect information to muscles, causing involuntary movements and muscle contractions. However, there are several types of focal dystonia, such as hand, task-specific, occupational cramps, etc. Usually, a writer’s cramp is known as task-specific dystonia. It happens when you perform a particular activity, such as typing, playing a musical instrument, or sewing. Other terms used to describe the writer’s cramp include musician’s cramp, focal hand dystonia, arm dystonia, finger dystonia, task-specific dystonia, occupational cramp, and yips. Remember, anyone can get task-specific dystonia like writer’s cramp but is more likely to experience it between 30 and 50.

Symptoms of Writer’s Cramp

The most common symptoms are –

                ·        Finger or hand coordination issues

                ·        Wrists or elbows moving in unusual directions

                ·        Fingers gripping is a difficult task

                ·        Fingers extend during writing, making it difficult to
                hold a pen

                ·        Difficult while bending fingers

What Causes the Condition?

A simple writer’s cramp can be caused by improperly holding a pen or pencil, overusing, or poor writing posture for some time. Even stress can escalate, such as exam stress which can further worsen the situation. However, if you keep worrying about the cramps, you may find it hard to focus on your task or exam. In
contrast, a dystonic writer’s cramp is less common than a simple writer’s cramp. It can occur when you are doing non-writing tasks or other multiple activities, such as using a knife or fork. If you think it only occurs due to your actions, it may not be correct; it can be genetic too.

How to Find Out?

The doctor will evaluate your medical history along with symptoms and conditions. Then will perform physical and neurological exams. The idea is to look for specific triggers of dystonia, the number of muscles involved, characteristics of spasms and postures, affected body parts, and which activities affect it. If your
condition is painful, the practitioner will diagnose further to determine if there is arthritis, tendon problems, muscle cramps, or carpal tunnel syndrome. There is no one treatment option available; it is a combination.

If you experience pain, it is not a good idea to sit over it. It may get worse and escalate your situation. You may reach out to The FORM Hand at (510) 480-3700 to help you in the best possible way.