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Focal Dystonia (Occupational Cramp)


Copyright 2024, Mark Alan Wade

Primary Author: Norris, R.
Journal Title: The Musician's Survival Manual: A Guide to Preventing and Treating Injuries in Instrumentalists
Date Published: 1993
Language: English
Category: Nervous Disorders
Key Words: focal dystonia musician instrumental treatment
Full Citation: Norris, Richard. Focal Dystonia (Occupational Cramp). Chap. 12 in The Musician's Survival Manual: A Guide to Preventing and Treating Injuries in Instrumentalists, edited by Deborah Torch. Saint Louis, MO: MMB Music, Inc., 1993.
Full Abstract: Focal dystonia is an enigmatic condition that puzzles doctors and musicians alike. It is fortunate that this condition only affects 1% of the population of musicians. Focal dystonia is a painless involuntary contraction of muscles while engaged in a focalized, specific task, such as forming an embouchure. The nature of dystonia contradicts normal muscle fire function. Typically when a muscle contracts, the muscles on the opposite side of the joint relax to free the joint for movement. This is called reciprocal inhibition. In the case of dystonia, co-contraction occurs, in which both sets of muscles fire simultaneously, impeding the intentional movement. Alexander Technique is often recommended for the player to reexamine musical movements to free themselves from tension. There is no documented evidence of improvements with this technique to date. Presently there is no cure and little understanding of this bizarre condition.