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Musician's Dystonia Essay

929 words - 4 pages

Musician’s dystonia, or Focal Hand Dystonia, is a condition that is just barely understood by today’s medical field. The cause is unsure and treatment thus far has only proved temporary. So what causes Focal Dystonia? How did the condition earn the title of “musician’s cramp” and how can it be cured or prevented? Most excessive motor training affects the musculoskeletal system, but, somehow, this injury takes place in the brain.
First, what is Musician’s Dystonia? Otherwise known as Focal Hand Dystonia, musician’s cramp, or “the yips”, it is a complex movement ailment that is characterized by involuntary contractions of certain muscles or muscle groups. It affects individuals who do skillful, highly attended activities with their hands. People afflicted generally engaged in a repetitive activity across a span of years – the playing of instruments being the prime example. It is generally a painless condition, but one that impedes regular movement, therefore hindering one’s ability to achieve essential tasks, such as playing a musical instrument. The Cortical Homunculus, or the primary sensory cortex, is a sensory map of your body. This map is responsible for the reception of perceptible sensory information, or the sense of touch, as well as the implementation of motor movements. In other words, this motor center of the brain processes and initiates motor functions. Each body part is intended to have a distinct and well-defined spot on the map. In the brain of someone with focal hand dystonia, the organization of the individual fingers becomes blurred or distorted. Therefore, the brain has difficulty differentiating between the fingers. The symptoms include the hands or fingers failing to respond to commands or reacting in unintentional ways. Fingers may curl, clench or shake involuntarily, and may also freeze or shoot out to the side. In pianists, the dystonia often manifests in either the fourth or fifth fingers of their right hand. Guitarists often express curling in the third finger in their right hand and flautists tend to develop dystonia in their left hand. Violinists and clarinettists may show symptoms in either hand.
But how did this disorder get the title of Musician’s Dystonia? Focal Dystonia can affect any profession which requires repeated movements but is more common among musicians than any other profession. It is estimated that approximately one to two percent of all professional musicians are affected. Dystonia has no real known cause, but there exists a variety of probable causes. Those of the hand are often thought to be caused by performing repeated hand movements. Brain imaging studies have confirmed this finding, showing that persons with musician’s dystonia have finger representations in their brains that are peculiarly fused compared to those without dystonia. As a result, the information from the brain does not necessarily go to the correct muscles. Some medical evidence suggests that some people are just more...

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