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There is an urgent need for new therapeutic options to treat muscle cramps; however, no patient-reported measures exist that capture the entire cramp experience. We conducted a qualitative study to assess the experience of patients suffering muscle cramps, aiming to understand what factors determine the impact cramps have in patients’ lives to guide the development of a patient-centered outcome measure of cramp severity and impact.
We enrolled patients with cramps due to several etiologies, including motor neuron disease, pregnancy-induced cramps, cirrhosis and hemodialysis, and idiopathic and exercise-induced cramps. Patients participated in semistructured interviews about their experiences with muscle cramps and their responses were recorded and transcribed. Data were analyzed with content analysis using data saturation to determine the sample size. We subsequently developed a conceptual framework of cramp severity and overall cramp impact.
Ten patients were interviewed when data saturation was reached. The cramp experience was similar across disease and physiological states known to cause muscle cramps. The main themes that compose the overall cramp impact are cramp characteristics, sleep interference, daytime activities interference, and the effect on mental health.
This framework will be used to develop a patient-reported outcome of cramp severity and impact.
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