Article Summary: Describes what muscle cramps are, what brings them on, what the symptoms are for muscle cramps, and what can be done to prevent and treat them.
1. What is it?
A muscle cramp is a painful, sustained involuntary contraction of a muscle. A cramp can last for seconds to minutes or longer and most commonly occur in the legs and feet.
2. What are the causes/predisposing factors of this condition?
There can be numerous causes of cramps. Excessive muscular stress, lack of flexibility, fatigue, electrolyte or mineral imbalance, dehydration and inadequate circulation to the muscle can all be responsible.
Other causes can include taking certain medications such as diuretics, asthma drugs, heart and blood pressure drugs, and cholesterol lowering drugs. Some systemic disorders such as Celiac disease, diabetes, thyroid malfunction and others may also cause cramping.
3. What are the symptoms?
Sudden pain and tightness is the usual complaint. The muscle may bulge and feel hard, knotted up and tender to palpation.
4. What can be done to prevent or treat this condition?
Prevention consists of having proper warm-ups and cool downs along with stretching. During warmer conditions ensure proper hydration. If there is prolonged sweating, take care to also replace lost electrolytes along with fluids. With certain medications, be aware that cramps are a possible side effect.
Treatment consists of stretching, gentle massage and hot or cold pack application.