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Health Encylopedia

Muscle cramps
Definition Muscle cramps are involuntary, often painful contractions of the muscles which produce a hard, bulging muscle. Muscle twitching or fasciculation is the result of spontaneous local muscle contractions that are not voluntary and typically only affect individual muscle groups innervated by (connected to) a particular motor neuron. This twitching does not cause pain.
Alternative Names Cramps - muscle
Considerations Ordinary muscle cramps are common and may be stopped by stretching the affected muscle. Muscle twitches are minor and often go unnoticed. Some are common and normal, while others indicate a neurologic disorder.
  • muscle
  • fatigue
  • heavy
  • exercise
  • dehydration
  • pregnancy
  • hypothyroidism
  • depleted magnesium or calcium stores or other metabolic abnormalities
  • alcoholism
  • kidney failure leading to uremia
  • medications
  • benign
  • , nonpathologic
  • fasciculations (not caused by disease or disorders)
  • often affect the eyelids, calf, or thumb
  • normal and quite common, often triggered by
  • stress , anxiety
  • a diet deficiency
  • drug side-effects especially diuretics or caffeine
  • benign fasciculation syndrome
  • More serious causes of fasciculations such as motor neuron disease, muscle diseases or denervation are usually accompanied by weakness and atrophy of that muscle group as well as other signs and symptoms.
    Home Care Slow stretching often brings relief. Follow prescribed therapy.
    Call your health care provider if
  • there are severe, prolonged or recurring muscle spasms or cramps that are unexplained or that aren't relieved by simple stretching.
  • there are prolonged or persistent muscle twitches that are unexplained especially if they are accompanied by weakness or muscle atrophy.
  • What to expect at your health care provider's office The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed. Medical history questions documenting your muscle spasms in detail may include:
  • When did the spasms first begin?
  • How long do they last?
  • How often do you experience muscle spasms?
  • What muscles are affected?
  • Is it always the same location?
  • Are you
  • pregnant ?
  • Have you been
  • vomiting , had diarrhea , excessive sweating , excessive urine volume , or other possible cause of dehydration ?
  • What medications do you take?
  • Have you been exercising heavily?
  • Have you been drinking alcohol heavily?
  • Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:
  • blood tests for disorders of calcium, potassium, magnesium, thyroid and kidneys
  • a pregnancy test
  • electromyography
  • myelography
  • Pain relievers
  • (
  • analgesics ) may be prescribed. Job, school, and home lifestyles as well as alcohol use may be explored After seeing your health care provider: You may want to add a diagnosis related to muscle spasms to your personal medical record.