Muscle Cramping

Muscle Cramping


What are Muscle Cramps ?

Muscle cramping occurs as the result of a contracted muscle not relaxing on its own. A muscle cramp may last as little as a few seconds or as long as several minutes. Muscle cramps often occur multiple times in the same area before subsiding entirely. They are a very common complaint, and the vast majority of individuals experiences them at one time or another. Though they are most common in adults and become increasingly common with age, they can also occur in children. 

What Causing Cramping ?

The potential causes of muscle cramping are numerous. Some of the most common include extended periods of exercise or physical labor and certain medications. When muscle cramping occurs as the result of exercise, it is often due to the overuse of the muscle, muscle strain, or dehydration. Holding the muscle in a certain position for an extended period may also lead to cramping. Exercise-related muscle cramping most often occurs among individuals who become dehydrated while engaging in warm-weather sports. In some cases, the exact cause of cramping is unknown. This is true of common nocturnal cramps that develop in the toes or calf muscles while one is sleeping.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Less often, muscle cramping may occur as a symptom of an underlying medical condition or disorder. Inadequate blood supply caused by the narrowing of the arteries, nerve compression, and depletion of certain minerals like magnesium, calcium, or potassium are known conditions that can cause muscle cramping. Certain medications, including diuretics, commonly cause mineral depletion. Muscle cramps may also occur in patients with anemia, hypoglycemia, diabetes, or disorders of the thyroid, kidneys, or nerves.

When to Seek Medical Attention

In the vast majority of cases, muscle cramping is not a serious problem. It usually can be managed without medical attention. When cramps are frequent, severe, or do not respond to home remedies, however, they should be evaluated by a medical professional. When trying to reach a diagnosis, doctors typically ask numerous questions regarding the patient's medical history, medications, and the characteristics of the cramps. Blood tests may also be needed to detect mineral deficiencies and certain underlying conditions.

Treating Muscle Cramping

Muscle cramping can usually be managed through stretching exercises and by staying well hydrated. When these methods fail, doctors may prescribe muscle relaxants or recommend vitamins or supplements to increase mineral levels. Severe complications associated with muscle cramping are rare, but a severe pain that can be debilitating may develop when underlying conditions are present.

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