Natural History of Muscle Cramps in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

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amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cramps, muscle spasms, natural history, pain

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Introduction: Muscle cramping is a common symptom in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that lacks efficacious treatment. The natural history of this symptom is unknown, which hampers efforts to design optimal clinical trials.

Methods: We surveyed early stage ALS patients about their experience with cramps each month by phone for up to 21 months.

Results: Cramps developed in 95% of patients over the course of their disease. The number of cramps experienced by an individual varied widely from month-to-month and trended lower after the first year of illness (P = 0.26). Those with limb-onset and age >60 years had more cramps than bulbar-onset (P < 0.0001) and younger patients (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: The high variability of the number of cramps experienced suggests that clinical trials will need to use crossover designs or large numbers of participants, even when the treatment effect is substantial. Muscle Nerve 53: 513–517, 2016

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Muscle & Nerve, v. 53, issue 4, p. 513-517