Writers Cramp


Writers' Cramp is a spastic condition of the writing muscles of the hand, first described by Sir Charles Bell in 1830. The ailment has also been known as scriveners' palsy. The disorder is associated with fatigue and prolonged use of these muscle groups. It has been classed as an occupational neurosis and compared to similar muscle palsies in other exacting occupations: for example, those of the calf muscles of professional dancers, the thumb muscles of tailors, and the thumb and forefinger muscles of telegraphers.

There is no specific organic disease of the muscles, tendons, or nerves in the sufferer from writers' cramp; it is simply that he wants to write but cannot. Other unrelated motions of the hand can be performed with ease. Accurate diagnosis of the case is important, since sclerosing diseases of the brain, various types of neuritis and neuralgia, and at times inflammatory rheumatism can simulate this condition. A French school (Francois Thiebaut and others) in the Revue Neurologique, vol. 101, pp. 230-234 (Paris 1959), has described an electromyographic method of diagnosing writers' cramp.

Treatments of writers' cramp have been many and varied. The simplest device is rest, which may require up to six months. During this time, psychotherapy may be helpful. The electric typewriter, the teletype, and many other types of duplicating machines have made this condition of less clinical importance.

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