Home :: Muscle Cramps
A Muscle cramp is an involuntary, painful contraction of the muscles which produce a hard, bulging muscle. Muscle twitching, also called fasciculation is the result of spontaneous local muscle contractions that are involuntary. The muscle cramp usually only affects the individual muscle groups connected to a particular motor neuron.
- Vigorous physical activity.
- Inadequate warm-up before engaging in strenuous physical activity.
- Calcium deficiency.
- Nerve disorders, such as pressure on nerve roots near the spinal cord, or abnormalities of nerve fibers after they leave the spinal cord.
- Enzyme deficiency (temporary).
- Diabetes, alcoholism, chronic kidney disease, a variety of medications, hardening of the arteries, Buerger's disease (see Glossary), all of which can cause damage to peripheral nerves and thereby cause muscle cramps.
- In swimmers, the cause of leg cramps is frequently unknown, and their presence does not suggest an underlying disorder.
Signs and symptoms
Painful, involuntary contraction of muscles, usually in the legs. Swimming more than other sports causes leg cramps in athletes during exercise.
- Blood studies (sometimes) to measure enzyme levels.
- Calcium, potassium, or magnesium metabolism
You can usually treat muscle cramps with self-care measures. Your doctor can discuss with you stretching exercises that can help you reduce your chances of getting muscle cramps. Making sure you drink plenty of liquids also can help. For recurrent cramps that disturb your sleep, your doctor may prescribe diazepam (Valium) to relax muscles and decrease stiffness.
Stretch and rub the cramping muscles.
- Voluntarily contract the muscles that directly
oppose those that are cramping. For example, cramps affect the calf of the leg, force the front of the foot upward toward the knee and hold it until the cramp is diminished.
- Apply heat to tense/tight muscles, or cold to sore/tender muscles.
- Hold each stretch briefly, then release. Never stretch to the point of pain.
Undertake a slow, thorough conditioning program prior to beginning vigorous physical activity, including swimming.
- Consult your doctor if you take any medicine and develop cramps. Discontinuing or modifying the dosage may prevent recurrent cramps.
- If you have an enzyme deficiency, there is no treatment except to reduce sports activities below the level that produces cramps.
- Don't smoke. Avoid polluted air while exercising. Both may decrease oxygen flow to muscles. Oxygen is needed in the muscles to avoid cramps.
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