National Study of Muscle Cramps in ALS in the USA
The objective of this study was to describe muscle cramps in an US sample of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients. Utilizing an anonymous web based questionnaire we queried ALS patients regarding the severity, frequency, time-course, treatment of muscle cramps and their relationship to pain. The survey had 282 respondents with 92% reporting that they had cramps. For 20% of the sample, cramps were stated to be the presenting ALS symptom. Cramp severity was rated at a mean of 5.2/10 and the mean cramp frequency was 5.3 cramps per day. Cramp intensity and frequency did not correlate with duration or severity of ALS. Pain as measured with the Patient Reported Outcome Measurement Information System (PROMIS) pain scales was not statistically different from the US general population. Cramp severity and frequency significantly and positively correlated with the PROMIS pain scales. Patients with more severe cramps were more likely to use prescription medications for their cramps compared to patients with milder symptoms. Treatments directed at cramps were tried by 57%. In conclusion, cramps are a common symptom in ALS and it does not correlate with disease duration or severity. The severity of cramps is on average moderate and many patients try treatments.