What is Writer's Cramp?

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  • Written By: J.L. Drede
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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Writer's cramp is a condition that causes spasms and cramps along the muscles of the hand and into the fingers. It is also referred to as mogigraphia and scriverner's palsy. The condition is similar, but unrelated to, carpal tunnel syndrome.

Writer's cramp is a dystonia, which is categorized as a sustained muscle contraction that is involuntary. It is a contraction that causes odd movements of the hand and abnormal postures of the wrist and fingers. More specifically, writer's cramp is a task-specific focal dystonia, meaning that the dystonia is limited to a specific area and usually manifests itself during a specific task. In this case that task is typically writing or drawing.

In some cases, however, the cramps become so severe that they spread and can begin to adversely affect other tasks. More specific symptoms of writer's cramp include excessive grip while holding a utensil, elevation of the elbow and involuntary extension of the fingers, which causes the sufferer to drop whatever he or she was holding.

Most often, symptoms of mogigraphia will begin to occur to people in their 30s to 50s. While it was long thought that the cause of writer's cramp was poor writing posture or excessive hand writing, more recent studies suggest that there may be no relation. While other hand pain problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, are caused by excessive use or nerve compression, there seems to be no relation between those causes and writer's cramp.


Doctors studying the condition still have not discovered if there is any factor that predisposes someone from suffering from Scrivener's Palsy. It occurs almost equally among the genders and does not appear to be hereditary. While writers seem to suffer from the condition more often than others, it may be that they just report it more, since it directly interferes with their line of work.

Treatment for the disorder can vary, and it is not always successful. Anticholinergic drugs, which block specific nerve impulses from reaching the brain, have been shown to have some success in treating pain related to this cramp. Success with this form of treatment is limited, however, and does not seem to help a significant amount of people who suffer from the condition. Injections of botulism toxin into the areas where the cramp is most severe seems to be a very effective treatment for the disorder, and more than two-thirds of those who undergo the treatment report a lessening of pain. Regardless of the treatment used, doctors recommend stretching and relaxation exercises to help control the pain caused by cramping.



Discuss this Article

Post 3

@MrsPramm - I suspect if someone was suffering from true writer's cramp, they'd need to switch to voice recognition software altogether. You can't get away with much when you are prone to cramping and it sounds like this disorder can be quite serious.

Post 2

@irontoenail - Doing little exercises is good but it might not be enough. I do a lot of typing and I've found that having the right keyboard can make a huge difference. Another thing that helps is being able to occasionally use voice recognition software so I can give my hands a complete rest for a while.

I find that if they are starting to ache, they probably need more than a little rest. They need a couple of days worth of rest, but I can't always stop my job in order to do that. By being able to speak instead of typing it can really help.

Post 1

If you do start to feel sore in your hands and fingers, it's a good idea to stop whatever you happen to do all day at regular intervals and stretch your hands out to try and relieve the tendons and muscles. There are some really good stretches online if you have a look for them.

It might be true that writer's cramp isn't actually caused by excessive writing, but I'm sure repetitive tasks like writing can make it feel worse once you develop it, so it's a good idea for everyone to be in the habit of exercising their hands regularly.

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