What is a cramp? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Although cramp, a common muscle spasm, may seem harmless, they may indicate some deficiencies in body cells or some serious disorders. Cramps, which are more common in summer and pregnant women, can cause discomfort such as bending or squeezing in the form of a painful spasm of 60% in adults. Although it takes a short time, cramps are extremely uncomfortable.

If you’ve had a muscle cramp before, you know how painful it is. Everything you want to know about cramps that usually occur in the back, arms, and legs, and the cause is not known. What is a cramp? What causes cramps? Symptoms and treatment …

What is a cramp?

Muscle cramps are sudden, involuntary contractions or spasms in one or more of your muscles. They are very common and often occur after exercise. Some people experience muscle cramps, especially leg cramps, at night. They can be painful and can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Although generally harmless, it can temporarily render the affected muscles unusable. Although they can occur in almost any skeletal muscle, foot and leg cramps are more common.

Prolonged exercise or physical exertion, especially in hot weather, can cause cramps. Some medications and certain medical conditions can also cause cramps.


Most muscle cramps develop in the leg muscles, particularly the calf. Besides sudden sharp pains, there is a feeling of hard muscle tissue under your skin.

When to see a doctor

Muscle cramps usually go away on their own and are rarely serious enough to require medical attention. However, see your doctor if you have cramps:

  • Cause serious discomfort
  • Associated with leg swelling, redness, or skin changes
  • Associated with muscle weakness
  • Happening often
  • Do not self-care
  • Not associated with an obvious cause such as strenuous exercise
What is a cramp? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What are the causes of cramps?

  • Injuries: Cramps can occur as a result of injury in some cases. Cramps may occur when a bone is broken or the defense mechanism gets activated. In general, the injured area is tried to be protected by minimizing the movement. In addition, muscle injuries can cause cramps in some damaged muscles.
  • Excessive muscle fatigue: In some cases, cramps may occur with too much use of the muscles. Cramps are common, especially in people who are in intensive work because of the profession or who have some muscle fatigue such as sports. Generally, these cramps, which can occur during or after activity, occur with a feeling of extreme fatigue and pain, and these signs should not be ignored, and rest should be a must to restore the necessary energy. Especially not swimming after eating creates an effect based on this logic. Blood that is pulled from the muscles and stored in the stomach can cause cramps during swimming.

In some cases, sitting in the same position or sitting in different positions for a long time or repeating a movement frequently can be caused by muscle fatigue and cramps.

Sometimes it is stated as the cause of cramps, not as fatigue, but after excessive movement, excessive sweat, and water loss. The risk of cramping occurs more in older people after strenuous physical exercise.

  • Dehydration electrolyte depletion, in addition, dehydration of the body is among the factors that cause cramps. Lack of water in the body as a result of excessive sweating while doing sports or after an intense activity is a cause of cramps. In general, replenishing the fluids lost after exercise and drinking plenty of water should be included as a method of preventing cramps. Cramps, which occur mostly in hot weather and are a momentary symptom of heatstroke, are among the triggering causes of cramps in people who use diuretic drugs and take little fluid during the day and especially in the elderly. In addition, experts indicate that sodium deficiency may occur as a cause of cramps. Sodium is a mineral that is especially necessary for the proper functioning of the muscles.
  • Magnesium, calcium, and potassium deficiency: In addition, the low level of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium in the blood creates an increase in the stimulation of both the nerve endings and the muscles that the nerves are affected. One of the most important reasons that predispose to cream complaints that are more common in pregnant women and the elderly is calcium and magnesium deficiency. In general, this deficiency, which creates a situation that cannot be supplemented through nutrition in pregnant women, may also occur due to a number of reasons such as diuretic drugs, too long and deep breathing, malnutrition, excessive vomiting, vitamin D deficiency, under-functioning of the thyroid glands, and cramps.
  • Drugs: Why are some side effects of drugs used in houses and cramps factors that may affect as. Especially diuretic drugs, birth control pills, blood pressure medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and also some drugs used in dialysis treatment cause this situation.

Cramps occur mostly during rest and mostly at night. For this reason, these cramps, which are called night cramps, can be painful and disturbing in terms of sleep interruption, although they do not pose a danger. Night cramps can be repeated frequently, several times during the night, or several times a week. The exact cause of night cramps has not yet been determined, but often cramps have been attributed to muscle fatigue or a nerve problem. In addition, there are explanations that genetic factors may also be effective. It may also occur as the cause of another problem in case of night cramps. Nerve damage, circulatory disorders, periodic leg movement disorders, involuntary spasms, restless leg syndrome,

  • Conditions and discomfort that may occur with night cramps

Lumbar hernia, alcoholism, Addison’s disease, pregnancy, diabetes, chronic renal failure, multiple sclerosis disease, myopathy (a muscle disease), a blood circulation disorder, Parkinson’s, osteoarthritis, neuropathy nerve compression, Peripheral artery disease, spinal stenosis, cirrhosis, nerve compression, long-term diarrhea, thyroid diseases, and varicose veins, sitting for long periods, bad sitting positions, vitamin deficiencies and (B1, B5, B6 vitamins) can be factors in this situation.

First of all, if night cramps are encountered, it must be examined thoroughly by a physician. If the disease occurs with other complaints, these are also taken into consideration and a precaution is taken accordingly. In addition, if it occurs after some medications or exercises, listening should be done as a result of this situation and the medicines should be used under the supervision of a doctor.

While most cramps are harmless, some may be associated with an underlying medical condition such as:

  • Insufficient blood flow

The narrowing of the vessels that deliver blood to your legs (atherosclerosis of the extremities) can cause cramp-like pain in your legs and feet while exercising. These cramps usually resolve soon after you stop exercising.

  • Nerve entrapment.

Compression of the nerves in your spine (lumbar stenosis) can also cause cramp-like pain in your legs. The pain often gets worse while walking. Walking in a slightly bent position can improve or delay the onset of your symptoms.

  • Mineral deficiency

Too little potassium, calcium, or magnesium in your diet can cause leg cramps. Diuretics (drugs usually prescribed for high blood pressure) are responsible for lowering these minerals.


Factors that can increase the risk of cramping include:

  • Age: Older people lose muscle mass, so the remaining muscle may wear out more easily.
  • Dehydration: Athletes who become tired and thirsty while doing sports in hot weather often experience muscle cramps.
  • Pregnancy: Muscle cramps are also common during pregnancy.
  • Medical conditions: People with diabetes, nervous, liver, or thyroid conditions may have a higher risk of cramping.

Why does the cramp come in?

What causes cramps is the question that people who frequently face the problem of muscle spasms are most curious about. As with many health problems, nutritional disorders are also very effective in the formation of cramps. Minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium play an important role in the communication between nerves in muscle cells.

The deficiencies of these minerals in the body cause muscle contraction and relaxation disorders. At the same time, being immobile as a result of sitting, lying, and lying down for a long time are among the causes of cramps. Cramps occur especially during sports activities.

During exercise, there is a high loss of water and salt with respiration and sweating. If the amount of salt needed by the body is not provided, problems will occur in signal transmission in the muscles. Excessive electrolyte and fluid loss cause cramping. In addition to these:

  • Fluid and electrolyte loss
  • Low calcium and magnesium levels that increase the stimulation of nerve endings and muscle fibers
  • Decrease in serum electrolyte level due to excessive diarrhea and vomiting, hemodialysis, and nutritional disorders
  • Vitamin D, B6, B5, and B1 deficiency
  • Disorders such as alcohol use, circulatory disorders, and diabetes can also cause cramps.


These steps can also additionally assist save you cramps:

  • Avoid dehydration. Drink lots of beverages each day. The quantity relies upon what you eat, your sex, your degree of activity, the weather, your health, your age, and the medicinal drugs you take. Fluids assist your muscle mass settlement and loosen up and maintain muscle cells hydrated and much less irritable. During the activity, refill fluids at ordinary intervals, and maintain ingesting water or different fluids after you are finished.
  • Stretch your muscle mass. Stretch earlier than and after you operate any muscle for a prolonged period. If you generally tend to have leg cramps at night, stretch earlier than bedtime. Light exercise, along with using a desk-bound bicycle for a couple of minutes earlier than bedtime, additionally can also additionally assist save you cramps whilst you are sleeping.

Treatment: How does the cramp go?

Cramp usually passes with the stretching movements applied to the muscles in the area where the cramp is experienced. In calf cramps, the heel is pressed on the ground and the wall is pushed with both hands and the cramped leg is pushed back half a step, or the foot is pulled from the wrist to the body in the lying position. Light massage and warm compresses applied to the muscles help the muscles to relax.

If the cause of the muscle spasm is fluid and electrolyte loss, this loss must be replaced. Drug treatment is not applied because the cramp will pass until the drug is absorbed by the muscle. Cramping can be prevented by warming up and stretching the muscles before exercise. Adequate fluid intake, especially before and after intense training, can prevent muscle spasms. Regular stretching exercises before going to bed,

Try applying heat to the muscles where the cramps are repeated before going to bed at night. These practices reduce the likelihood of cramping: You can use a thermophore, wet hot towel, hot water bottles, or hot stones for this. Be careful, don’t burn your skin!

  • Stretch and massage the muscles.
  • Take a hot shower or bath to relax the muscles. A heating pad placed over the muscle can also help.
  • Try using an ice or cold pack. Always keep a washcloth between your skin and the ice pack.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks often help with leg cramps.
  • Take care to drink enough water. Never be dehydrated. Especially try to consume mineral-rich natural waters with high calcium and magnesium content.
  • Try doing exercises to relax your leg muscles before going to bed. Benefit from the preventive power of massage and scrubbing movements.
  • Magnesium and potassium supplements prevent and reduce muscle cramps.
  • Vitamin B1 can alleviate the cramping problem.
  • Grape seed extracts are thought to be good for foot cramps.
  • Vitamin E relieves leg cramps.

Is it a sign of any risk? Should I be worried?

Night cramps are not a situation that requires anxiety, since it is a condition that can already be seen in normal individuals over the age of 50, such as extreme fatigue, straining during sleep, and dehydration. However, if most of them occur more than once at night and are also seen during the day, it may also be a sign of some other diseases if there is deformation not only in the legs but also in the arms and hands. In such cases, it is necessary to consult a neurology specialist. In this way, we should take persistent cramps as an alarm sign, as frequent leg cramps can be encountered in conditions such as diabetic neuropathy, neuropathy due to kidney disease, thyroid diseases, low calcium, motor neuron disease.

The page content is for informational purposes only. Items containing information about therapeutic healthcare services are not included in the content of the page. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.

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