Why there are muscle cramps and what to do about it

Almost every person has had muscle spasms at least once in his life. A muscle cramp is an involuntary contraction of the muscle, which, as a rule, is accompanied by a sharp pain.

A convulsive spasm can occur in any muscle – both skeletal and smooth. Among skeletal muscles, the muscles that participate in the movement of two joints have the greatest propensity to develop seizures. Most often, gastrocnemius muscles, muscles of the anterior and posterior surfaces of the thigh are affected by cramps. Cramps of the muscles of the feet and hands often quite often occur. Among the spasms of smooth muscles, spasm of the intestine, the vascular wall (for example, with stenocardia), bronchial tubes (with bronchial asthma), etc. are often encountered.

Seizures can be tonic and clonic. Tonic spasms are characterized by a prolonged muscle strain, clonic – synchronous jerky contractions, which alternate with relaxation. Clonic generalized convulsions are also called convulsions.

Causes of muscle cramps

The occurrence of seizures for no apparent reason can be associated with physical exercises (for example, when running, swimming, playing football). Also, cramps of the leg muscles (often at night) are often observed in the elderly.

A common cause of seizures is various metabolic disorders (metabolism). Thus, metabolic disorders can cause seizures in cirrhosis, uremia, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, as well as with a decrease in the function of the adrenal glands.

A sharp decrease in the amount of extracellular fluid and the loss of electrolytes (potassium, magnesium) can also cause muscle cramps. This situation can occur with increased sweating, hemodialysis, a background of severe diarrhea or vomiting, as well as uncontrolled intake of diuretics. In addition to diuretics, muscle spasm can occur due to the use of analeptics and psychostimulating drugs.

Also, muscle cramps can be a manifestation of the disease, for example, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, neuropathy, radiculopathy. In some cases, muscle spasms are a manifestation of some hereditary diseases and rare autoimmune conditions. In addition, muscle cramps can be a consequence of poliomyelitis.

Risk groups

The risk group for the onset of seizures is primarily small children, the elderly, pregnant women, athletes, and people taking certain medications. Spasms in young children are especially easy to develop against intoxication, infectious diseases, trauma when exposed to psychogenic factors. This is due to the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the child’s body.

Muscle cramps are a common occurrence among athletes who train for endurance (for example, marathon runners). Also, muscle spasms are observed in athletes performing exercises of maximum intensity: cycling track, sprinting. In this case, cramps, as a rule, occur at the end of a long or intensive exercise, or a few hours after them.


Very strong muscle cramps, not associated with obvious causes (for example, with physical exertion), which happen often and do not stop with simple procedures, are usually a consequence of the disease. In this case, it is necessary to consult a doctor to determine the cause of seizures and to conduct adequate medical measures. In other cases, when the convulsive spasm is not a manifestation of the disease, it usually disappears on its own and does not require medication.

Muscle cramps can occur at any time in every person. To independently stop convulsive spasm, you must perform the following actions. First, you want to stop making movements that caused muscle spasm. Then you need to carefully stretch the muscle crammed with a spasm and massage it. For example, if the gastrocnemius has been brought down, you should pull the toe of the foot toward you, while the knee should be straightened. Keep the muscle in a stretched position until the cramp stops. Next, you need to relax the spasmodic muscle: it should be in peace for a few minutes. It should be remembered that an attempt to arbitrarily reduce this muscle immediately after the cessation of spasm can lead to the re-occurrence of seizures.

If after the spasm has passed, the muscle feels painful, then you can apply ice to it. Also on the painful muscle, you can apply a tight bandage of elastic bandage. In the case when after a spasm the muscle feels dense and continues to be in a stressed state, it should be warmed up, massage and also put a tight bandage.

In order to prevent the occurrence of seizures in the future, it is necessary to perform a warm-up before physical exertion. Also, for normal muscle functioning, adequate nutrition is needed with sufficient vitamins and minerals, in particular, calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium. On the appointment of a doctor, it is possible to use muscle relaxants.

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