Muscle cramps are when a muscle gets tight (contracts) without
you trying to tighten it, and it does not relax. Cramps may involve all or part
of one or more muscles.
The most commonly involved muscle groups are:
Back of the lower leg/calf
Back of the thigh (hamstrings)
Front of the thigh (quadriceps)
Cramps in the feet, hands, arms, abdomen, and along the rib cage
are also very common.
Muscle cramps are common and may be stopped by stretching the muscle.
The cramping muscle may feel hard or bulging.
cramps are different than muscle twitches,
which are covered in a separate article.
cramps are common and often occur when a muscle is overused or injured. Working
out when you have not had enough fluids (dehydration) or when you have low
levels of minerals such as potassium or calcium can also make you more likely
to have a muscle spasm.
cramps can occur while you play tennis or golf, bowl, swim, or do any other
can also be triggered by:
you have a muscle cramp, stop your activity and try stretching and massaging
will relax the muscle when the spasm begins, but ice may be helpful when the
pain has improved.
the muscle is still sore, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help
with pain. If the muscle cramps are severe, your health care provider can
prescribe other medicines.
most common cause of muscle cramps during sports activity is not getting enough
fluids. Often, drinking water will ease the cramping. However, water alone does
not always help. Salt tablets or sports drinks, which also replenish lost
minerals, can be helpful.
tips for relieving muscle cramps:
your workouts so that you are exercising within your ability.
plenty of fluids while exercising and increase your potassium intake (orange
juice and bananas are great sources of potassium).
to improve flexibility.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
your provider if your muscle cramps:
not go away with simple stretching
a long time
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
provider will examine you and ask questions about your symptoms and medical
history, such as:
did the spasms first begin?
long do they last?
often do you experience muscle spasms?
muscles are affected?
the cramp always in the same location?
you been vomiting, had diarrhea, excessive
sweating, excessive urine
volume, or any other possible cause of dehydration?
medicines do you take?
you been exercising heavily?
you been drinking alcohol heavily?
tests may be done to check for the following:
potassium, or magnesium metabolism
medicines may be prescribed.§ A muscle cramp is an involuntarily and
forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax.