By Medicover Hospitals / 4 Jan 2021
A painful and involuntary contraction of a muscle. Cramping can have causes that are not due to an underlying disease. Examples such as dehydration, strenuous exercise, or lack of muscle use.
- What are muscle cramps?
- When to visit a Doctor?
- Home remedies
What are muscle cramps?
Muscle spasms are also known as muscle cramps, spasms occur when a muscle contract involuntarily and forcibly and cannot relax. These occur frequently and can affect any muscle. They affect part or all of a muscle or several muscles in a group. The most common sites of muscle spasms are the thighs, calves (the back part of your lower leg), arches, hands, arms, abdomen, and sometimes along the rib cage. When they occur in the calves, in particular, these cramps are called "Charley horses".
Muscle spasms vary in intensity from mild twitching to severe pain. The spastic muscle may feel harder to touch or appear visibly distorted. He may show visible signs of contractions. The spasms can usually last from a few seconds to 15 minutes or more and can recur several times before going away.
Muscle spasms can happen to anyone. Whether you are old, young, sedentary, or active, you can develop muscle spasms or cramps. It can occur when you walk, sit, perform any exercise, or even sleep. Some people are liable to muscle spasms and get them regularly with any physical exertion. However, those most at risk of muscle spasms are infants, the elderly (over 65), people who strain too much during exercise, sick people, and endurance athletes.
Muscle cramps have several causes. Some cramps occur when your muscles are overused. This usually happens while you are exercising.
Muscle injuries and dehydration can also trigger cramps. Dehydration means an extreme loss of fluids in the body.
Muscle cramps are caused by lowering the levels of these minerals that contribute to healthy muscle function include:
Low blood supply to the legs and feet can cause cramps in these areas when you exercise, walk, or participate in physical activities.
In some cases, health problems can cause muscle cramps. These conditions include:
Medicines that can cause muscle cramps include:
- Pressure on the spinal nerve, which can cause muscle cramps in the legs when walking or standing
- renal failure
- hypothyroidism or poor function of the thyroid gland
Often, the cause of muscle cramps is unknown.
- Furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide) and other diuretics (“water pills”) that remove fluids from the body
- Donepezil (Aricept), used to treat Alzheimer's disease
- Neostigmine (Prostigmine), used for myasthenia gravis
- Nifedipine (Procardia), for treating angina and hypertension
- Raloxifene (Evista), a treatment for osteoporosis
- Terbutaline (Brethine), albuterol (Proventil and Ventolin), asthma drugs
- Tolcapone (Tasmar), which helps treat Parkinson's disease
- Statin medicines for cholesterol, like atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) or simvastatin (Zocor)
Muscle cramps are harmless and do not require medical attention. Although see a physician if the muscle cramps are severe, do not improve with stretching, or persist for a long period. This may show an underlying medical issue.
To find out the cause of muscle cramps, your physician will do a physical exam. They may ask you questions, like:
You may also need to have a blood test to check the potassium and calcium levels in your blood, as well as your kidney and thyroid function. You are asked to take a pregnancy test as well.
Your doctor may order electromyography (EMG). This test is used to measure muscle activity and check for muscle abnormalities. An MRI can also be a useful test. It is an imaging tool that generates an image of the spinal cord.
Tell your doctor if you experience weakness, pain, or loss of sensation. These symptoms can be signs of a nervous disorder.
- How often do your muscle cramps occur?
- Which muscles are affected?
- Do you take medication?
- Do you drink alcohol?
- What are your exercise habits?
- How much fluid do you drink daily?
Muscle relaxant drugs can be used short term in certain situations to relieve muscle cramps due to injury or another temporary event. These drugs such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), orphenadrine (Norflex), and baclofen (Lioresal).
In recent years, injections of therapeutic doses of botulinum toxin (Botox) have been used successfully for certain dystonic muscle disorders that are localized in a limited group of muscles. A good response may last for several months or more, and the injection may then be repeated.
The treatment of cramps related to specific medical conditions is usually focused on the treatment of the underlying condition. Sometimes additional medications specifically for cramps are prescribed with some of these conditions.
If cramps are severe, frequent, persistent, respond poorly to simple treatments, or not associated with the apparent cause, then the patient and the physician need to consider the possibility that more intensive treatment showed or that the cramps are an appearance of another disease. As described above, the possibilities vary widely and include issues with circulation, nerves, metabolism, hormones, medicines, and nutrition. Rarely, muscle cramps occur as a result of a medical condition without other obvious signs of the presence of the medical condition.
Cramps are inevitable, but if possible, it would be best to avoid them.
When to visit a Doctor?
In most cases, you can deal with a leg cramp. It will probably reduce in a couple of minutes. But if you have them often and for no simple reason, tell your doctor.
Stretching the area that has the muscle spasm can usually help improve or prevent the spasm from occurring. Below are stretching for the calf, thigh, back, and neck muscles.
4 stretches for calf muscle spasms:
To do the first stretch:
Other stretches to do:
- Lie down, stretch your leg by pointing or pulling your toes towards your head
- Hold the position for a few seconds or until the spasm stops.
- You can also use a strap or belt wrapped around your foot to gently pull the top of your foot towards you.
- It also works for hamstring muscle spasms.
- Stand up and put your weight on the cramped leg, slightly bending the knee
- Standing on your tiptoes for a few seconds
- Speed forward with the non-cramped leg, keeping the cramped leg straight
Stretch for thigh spasms:
- Stand up straight and hold on to a chair for balance.
- Bend your leg at the knee and reach your leg behind the hip.
- Holding your ankle, pull your foot behind you towards your buttock.
4 stretches for back spasms:
The first and easiest way to stretch a back spasm is to walk, which can relax back muscles and relieve a spasm. Walk at a slow, steady pace to relax your back muscles.
Stretch tennis ball:
Stretch Foam Roller:
- Lie on the floor or a bed with a tennis ball (or other small balls) under the area with the spasm for a few minutes.
- Try to relax and breathe normally.
- Move the ball to an adjacent spot and repeat.
Exercise ball stretch:
- Lie on the floor with a foam roller vertical to the spine.
- Move your back on the roller, up to your shoulder blades, and towards your belly button.
- Keep your arms crossed over your chest.
- Sit on an exercise ball and lie down, so that your back, shoulders, and buttocks are stretched out on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. Do this near a chair or sofa so you can grab a hold of yourself if you lose your balance.
- Lie down for a few minutes.
Stretch for neck spasms:
You can perform shoulder rolls anywhere, while sitting in a car, at a desk, or if you're in line somewhere.
- When seated or standing, make a circle around your shoulders by rolling your shoulders forward, up, backward, and down. Repeat this movement 10 times.
- Then roll your shoulders in the opposite direction, moving your shoulders back, up, forward, and down. Repeat 10 circles in this direction.
Physical pain and muscle cramps relieved by taking massages:
- Gently rub the spasmed muscle.
- For a persistent back spasm, try to strongly pinch the area around it and hold the pinch for a few minutes. You may need someone else to do the pinch if you can't reach the area.
Ice or heat:
- Treating pain and cramp with hot or cold therapy can be extremely effective.
- For a persistent spasm, apply an ice pack to the muscle for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, a few times a day. Wrap the ice in a thin towel or cloth so that the ice does not get directly on your skin.
- A heating pad over the area can also be effective for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, but follow it up with an ice pack. This is because heat is good for pain, but it can make inflammation worse. The ice will calm the inflammation.
- Other heating options include a hot tub, hot shower, or hot tub, or spa if available, all of which can help relax your muscles.
- When you have a spasm, try to drink water.
- To avoid spasms, be sure to stay hydrated, especially if you are exercising or in hot weather.
- While recommendations for how much water you should drink will vary depending on factors such as your individual needs, activities, lifestyle, and weather, here are some amounts to follow.
- The Food and Nutrition Board released a report in 2004 that includes general guidelines for total water consumption, including the water you get from food and drink.
- The report noted that about 80 percent of the water we need can come from drinks, including plain water, and 20 percent from the foods we eat.
|Adequate quantity of water and equivalent measures.
||15 1/2 glasses
- Some people find that they can prevent nighttime leg cramps (which can occur in up to 60 percent of adults) by doing some light exercise before going to sleep.
- Some examples of light exercise include:
- jogging in place
- go up and down a staircase
- few minutes ride a stationary bike
- few minutes use a row machine
- bounce on a trampoline
- While light exercise can help, moderate or heavy exercise can affect your sleep, so you'll want to avoid it right before bed.
There are several things you can take by mouth to relieve your muscle spasms:
- NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) often provide relief by reducing inflammation and pain.
- Pickle juice: Drinking a small amount of pickle juice would relieve muscle cramps in 30-35 seconds. It is believed to work by restoring the electrolyte balance.
- Supplements: Some people use salt tablets, vitamin B-12, and magnesium supplements to treat and prevent muscle spasms. It is important to note that the evidence for their effectiveness is limited.
- Natural Muscle Relaxants: Natural muscle relaxers include consuming chamomile tea, adding capsaicin to foods, and improving your sleep.
Topical anti-inflammatory and analgesic creams:
- Over-the-counter pain-relieving creams can help. These contain products that include lidocaine, camphor, or menthol.
- An emollient gel made from turmeric longa (turmeric) and celery seeds would help relieve pain and inflammation from a muscle spasm.
- A review article on spasms reported an observational study with three participants who used hyperventilation at 20 to 30 breaths per minute to resolve exercise-related cramps.
- Hyperventilation occurs when you breathe harder and faster than normal. If you suffer from anxiety, hyperventilation may not be an excellent choice for you as it can cause feelings of panic.
- If you have a persistent muscle spasm, especially if it is severe, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant or pain reliever.
- Muscle relaxants used for muscle spasms are called centrally acting skeletal muscle relaxers (SMRs) and are often only prescribed for periods of 2 to 3 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions:
A lot of research has shown that increasing your magnesium intake can help decrease the frequency of night leg cramps, especially in pregnant women. Health experts recommend consuming at least 300 milligrams of magnesium every day.
As you may know, bananas are an excellent source of potassium. But they will also give you both magnesium and calcium. These are three out of four nutrients you need to relieve the muscle cramps hidden under that yellow skin. No wonder bananas are a quick and popular choice for cramp relief.
Can vitamin deficiencies cause muscle cramps? Several vitamin deficiency states can directly or indirectly lead to muscle cramps. In particular, there are deficiencies in thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5), and pyridoxine (B6). The precise role of a deficiency of these vitamins in cramps is unknown.
Magnesium citrate can be the most efficient type if you would like to try a supplement. If your magnesium was deficient, there may be other benefits to increasing your intake of this nutrient. And there are other remedies available for leg cramps that can help.
People who are deficient in vitamin B12 can sometimes experience muscle cramps all over their body.
Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1941738109357299
Muscle cramps - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mus.20341
Exercise related joint pains- https://europepmc.org/article/med/12074203
Symptomatic treatment for muscle cramps - https://n.neurology.org/content/74/8/691.short