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Muscle cramp, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

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Muscle cramp, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

A cramp is a sudden, involuntary muscle contraction of a muscle, which is temporary lasts from few seconds to few minutes. It is non-damaging which can cause significant pain, and a paralysis-like immobility of the affected muscle.

Cramps may occur in a skeletal muscle or smooth muscle

Skeletal muscle : Skeletal muscle cramps may be caused by muscle fatigue or a lack of electrolytes such as low sodium, low potassium or low magnesium.

Smooth muscle :  Cramps of smooth muscle may be due to menstruation or gastroenteritis.

Nocturnal leg cramp or night time leg cramp : Nighttime leg cramps are usually sudden spasms, or tightening, of muscles in the calf. It may also happen in the thigh and foot which usually occurs when you go to sleep or at the time of wake up.

Causes of muscle cramp

  • hyperflexion,
  • hypoxia,
  • exposure to large changes in temperature,
  • dehydration,
  • low blood salt,
  • Muscle cramps can also be a symptom or complication of
  • pregnancy; kidney disease;
  • thyroid disease;
  • hypokalemia,
  • hypomagnesemia,
  • hypocalcaemia (as conditions); restless legs syndrome; varicose veins; and
  • multiple sclerosis.
  • Exercising, injury, or overuse of muscles.
  • Exposure to cold temperatures
  • Standing on a hard surface for a long time
  • Sitting for a long time

As early as 1965, researchers observed that leg cramps and restless legs syndrome can result from excess insulin, sometimes called hyperinsulinemia.

Various medications may cause nocturnal leg cramps:

  • Diuretics, especially potassium sparing
  • Intravenous (IV) iron sucrose
  • Conjugated estrogens
  • Teriparatide
  • Naproxen
  • Raloxifene
  • Long acting adrenergic beta-agonists (LABAs)
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (HMG-CoA inhibitors or statins)


  • Stretching
  • Massage and drinking plenty of fluid
  • Quinine is likely to be effective medicine for cramps (but it has many side effects)
  • Some effective medicines like
    • Vitamin B complex,
    • naftidrofuryl,
    • lidocaine,
    • calcium channel blockers


  • Adequate conditioning, stretching, mental preparation, hydration, and electrolyte balance are likely helpful in preventing muscle cramps.
  • warm shower to relax the muscle.
  • cold pack etc.,

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