What is a muscle cramp? What are clinical treatments and home remedies?
What is a muscle cramp? What are clinical treatments and home remedies? Muscle cramps are actually involuntary, and localized contractions occurring in various muscles. These sometimes are so painful that the person experiencing muscle cramps usually moan very much. They usually occur in those muscle groups that are big in sizes such as muscles in the back of legs, back of thighs, and front of thighs.
Generally, muscle cramps can last for seconds to minutes depending upon the severity. These can be idiopathic and can also occur due to known causes. Moreover, a painful cramp occurring in a specific area does not necessarily mean that the onset of cramp was formed in that specific area.
In this article, you’ll be able to learn more about muscle cramps, their clinical treatments, and, home remedies?
Do you know about muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps are the result of continuous, involuntary, painful and, localized contractions of an individual muscle selected muscle fibers, or an entire muscle group. The area of muscle cramps would present with stiffness. Whenever a person is experiencing cramps, you would see him or her grabbing that specific area very tightly due to the pain. Palpating that area would present with a knot.1 Muscle cramps are known by different terms in different countries such as Charley horses in the USA, corky in Australia, and chopper in England, etc.
Now that you’ve known about muscle cramps, let us jump straight into their causes.
Etiologies of Muscle Cramps
There are several known causes of muscle cramps, and there are such that are still unknown. The cause and etiology of a muscle cramp depend on the situation in which it occurs. Overuse, dehydration, and mineral deficiencies are some basic known causes. Other underlying medical conditions that cause muscle cramps are:
Inadequate Blood Perfusion: Blood vessels narrow down in atherosclerotic patients. Thus, such patients usually present with lower leg muscle cramps due to the decreased blood supply to the leg muscles. Such a condition is aggravated during exercise.
Mineral Deficiencies: Many minerals such as calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium, etc. are necessary for proper muscle contractions and health. If such minerals are deficient, there are greater chances of muscle cramps to occur.
Neurological Abnormalities: Many a time, neurological abnormalities and nerve compressions are the cause of muscle cramps. Nerve compressions usually occur due to spinal stenosis.
Too Much Exercise: Excessive exercise causes the muscle to shift to anaerobic metabolism. Anaerobic metabolism then causes lactic acid production, which lowers the pH of muscle. That is the reason excessive exercise is the most common cause of muscle cramping.2
Is a muscle cramp an alarming situation?
Studies have shown that muscle cramps are not that dangerous. They occur temporarily for seconds to minutes depending upon the severity. Though generally innocuous and not life-threatening, they tend to produce sharp, excruciating pain which temporarily makes it impossible to use the affected muscle.3
Clinical Treatments of Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps in most people resolve on their own and there isn’t any need for medical aid or treatment. Still, there are certain clinical treatments of muscle cramps which include:
Rehydration: As stated previously, muscle cramps occur by water losses. Mostly water and ionic losses occur during exercise. Rehydrating the patient with essential nutrients reverses muscle cramps.
Provision of Minerals: Treating mineral deficiencies in patients with muscle cramps plays an essential role in preventing muscle cramps. Doctors usually recommend mineral supplements to the patient so that his muscle cramps and the pain may get relieved.
Treatment by Quinine: Recent studies show that the drug quinine has been effective in reducing the pain caused by muscle cramps and also it reduces the frequency of muscle contractions.4
Home Remedies of Muscle Cramps
Sometimes a person is unable to get medical care timely. Thus, one should know about home remedies and first-aid treatments of such conditions. Some important remedies are enlisted below:
Application of cold or hot swab: Compression of the affected muscle site with a hot or cold swab greatly reduces the pain caused by the cramps.
Passive Muscle Stretching: Studies have shown that whenever the cramped muscle is passively stretched by the other person, contractions of muscle dramatically decrease.
Drinking lots of mineral water: Keeping the body hydrated with mineral-rich water stops the muscles cramps to develop.5
The summarization of all of this discussion is that muscle cramp is not that dangerous and is an under-recognized treatable painful condition. Clinical judgment and effective remedies must be uses for the prevention of muscle cramps. Moreover, if you ever experience muscle cramps, there isn't any need to worry. Just relax and passively stretch your affected muscle as easily as possible. Also, if you are an athlete, maintain your electrolyte and nutrient levels. See your doctor every now and then.
1. Muscle Cramps - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499895/.
2. Muscle Cramps - Neurologic Disorders - Merck Manuals Professional Edition. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/symptoms-of-neurologic-disorders/muscle-cramps.
3. Muscle Cramps - Practical Neurology. https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2019-aug-july/muscle-cramps.
4. Maughan, R. J. & Shirreffs, S. M. Muscle Cramping During Exercise: Causes, Solutions, and Questions Remaining. Sports Med. 49, 115–124 (2019).
5. How to Stop Leg Cramps: Treatment and Remedies for Relief. https://www.healthline.com/health/pain-relief/how-to-stop-leg-muscle-cramps.