Botox: The Writer's Best Friend

Posted on July 25, 2007

A new study says the writer's cramp (a dystonia) is caused by a condition in the brain that some people are more prone to. French scientists apparently found "structural abnormalities" in the brains of people prone to the condition. HealthDay reports that Botox is one of the treatments for writer's cramp.

"It's always nice to know as much as you can about something before you devise a treatment," said Dr. Tom Swift, past president of the American Academy of Neurology and professor emeritus and former chairman of the department of neurology at the Medical College of Georgia. "With a lot of dystonias, for a long time it was thought there weren't any anatomical abnormalities, even for severe dystonias. Using newer [imaging] techniques with higher resolutions, there are some areas that show abnormalities, but they're very subtle."

Writer's cramp is a dystonia, or a movement disorder that causes involuntary contractions of the muscles. The condition refers to involuntary muscle contractions of the fingers, hand or arm while writing or performing other manual tasks. It often occurs in people who have used the same muscles repeatedly for years. As a result, writing can become a painful activity, and written work can become far less legible, according to the Dystonia Society.

In one quarter of cases, the condition affects both hands. Overall, writer's cramp affects three to seven of every 100,000 people, a relatively small proportion, but it can negatively affect work, self-esteem and social life, the study authors said.

Dr. Swift says, "In fully developed writer's cramp, the fingers grip the pen very tightly, and the arm drags down to the right lower corner of the page. It's pretty serious. Even typing can produce a similar kind of thing."

The new issue of the journal Neurology -- which we know you all subscribe to -- goes into detail about the causes and treatment of writer's cramp. One interesting finding: shots of Botox block the release of acetylcholine, a chemical produced by nerve cells that signals muscles to contract. Botox is a veritable wonder drug: It stops excessive sweating, wrinkles and now writer's camp. Botox: the writer's best friend.

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