What are muscle cramps?

Muscle cramps result from an involuntary contraction of the skeletal muscles and are a common symptom of dehydration, fatigue, poor circulation, and nerve compression. Muscle fatigue from improper conditioning or prolonged exercise is a common cause of muscle cramps. Other common causes include sitting in one place for a long period of time and vascular disorders, both of which decrease blood circulation to the muscles.

Muscle Problems Spotlight

Leg cramps, sometimes called charley horses, are sudden and uncontrollable muscle contractions or spasms. They can occur with exercise or while sleeping and usually resolve just as quickly as they came. The pain from muscle cramps can be intense, but can often be relieved with gentle stretching and massage.

Electrolyte depletion in the blood can also lead to muscle cramps. In rare cases muscle cramps can be a symptom of kidney disorders. The endocrine condition diabetes may be accompanied by cramping of muscles in the legs and arms, and hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can also cause muscle cramps. Depending on the cause, cramping may occur in one muscle or a group of muscles, and it may be accompanied by sharp pain and a hard visible lump in the muscle.

Muscle cramps may be a sign of dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can result in shock or coma and may be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of severe dehydration, such as loss of consciousness and no urine production.


What other symptoms might occur with muscle cramps?

Muscle cramps may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the muscles may also involve other body systems.

Muscle symptoms that may occur along with muscle cramps

Muscle cramps may accompany other symptoms affecting the muscle including:


What causes muscle cramps?

Muscle cramps result from an involuntary contraction of a skeletal muscle. Overuse, prolonged exercise without proper conditioning, and fatigue are common causes of muscle cramps. In addition, dehydration and depletion of electrolytes, including magnesium, calcium and potassium, can lead to muscle cramps.

Diabetes-related artery disease might reduce circulation to a muscle and cau... Read more about muscle crampscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 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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