What causes hand cramps?

Injury or damage to any of the structures in your hand can cause hand cramps. Diseases that affect the entire body, such as diabetes, dystonia, or peripheral neuropathy, are more complex processes that can lead to hand cramps.

Acute causes of hand cramps

Hand cramps can also be caused by acute problems that affect the muscles and nerves of the hand including:

  • Anxiety or panic due to hyperventilation
  • Damage to a single nerve or nerve group (mononeuropathy) or to multiple nerves (polyneuropathy) that are connected to muscles in the hand
  • Dehydration (loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which can be life threatening when severe and untreated)
  • Increased levels of phosphate in the body
  • Low levels of magnesium or calcium in the body
  • Medications
  • Overuse injury
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged heavy exercise

Chronic disease causes of hand cramps

Hand cramps can also be caused by chronic problems that affect multiple body systems including:

  • Chronic kidney disease and dialysis
  • Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)
  • Dystonia (abnormal prolonged muscle contractions)
  • Peripheral neuropathy (disorder that causes dysfunction of nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord)
  • Thyroid disorders

Questions for diagnosing the cause of hand cramps

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your hand cramps including:

  • How long have you had hand cramps?
  • When do your symptoms occur?
  • Are your symptoms worsened or relieved by movement or specific activities?
  • At what age did the hand cramps first appear?
  • Does the presence of hand cramps seem variable over weeks to months?
  • How much calcium-containing food, such as milk or milk products, do you eat?
  • Are your hand cramps worse when you exercise?
  • What other symptoms are you experiencing?

What are the potential complications of hand cramps?

You can minimize your risk of serious complications by following your treatment plan and taking all medications as prescribed.

Although these complications are rare with hand cramps, if caused by dehydration and left untreated, hand cramps can lead to serious consequences including:

  • Dehydration (loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which can be life threatening when severe and untreated)
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Kidney failure

References:

  1. Hand or foot spasms. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003194.htm.
  2. Hand injuries and disorders. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/handinjuriesanddisorders.html.

INTRODUCTION

What are hand cramps?

Cramps in your hand can arise from a number of different causes. Hand cramps develop as a result of conditions affecting muscles and nerves in your hand. Trauma or injury to a nerve in your hand can also cause hand cramps. Even breathing too fast (hyperventilation) can result in hand cramps, as carbon dioxide levels in the blood become too low. Everyday, simple reasons, such as fatigue from ove... Read more about hand crampsintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with hand cramps?

Hand cramps may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on their cause and any underlying diseases or conditions. Some conditions that frequently affect the hand, such as peripheral vascular disease or muscle fatigue, can cause symptoms in other body systems.

Hand symptoms that may occur along with h... Read more about hand crampssymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles


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