Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps are due to sudden involuntary muscle contraction. This means you have no control over the tightening of a muscle (or muscles). Often there are no obvious causes. Muscle cramps may occur with overexertion. They may also occur with chilling of the muscles. An example of a muscle chilling activity is swimming. It is uncommon for cramps to be due to a serious underlying disorder. In most cases, muscle cramps improve (or leave) within minutes.

CAUSES

Some common causes are:

  • Injury.

  • Infections, especially viral.

  • Abnormal levels of the salts and ions in your blood (electrolytes). This could happen if you are taking water pills (diuretics).

  • Blood vessel disease where not enough blood is getting to the muscles (intermittent claudication).

Some uncommon causes are:

  • Side effects of some medicine (such as lithium).

  • Alcohol abuse.

  • Diseases where there is soreness (inflammation) of the muscular system.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • It may be helpful to massage, stretch, and relax the affected muscle.

  • Taking a dose of over-the-counter diphenhydramine is helpful for night leg cramps.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

Cramps are frequent and not relieved with medicine.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.