What Causes Muscle Cramps?

Have you ever experienced a muscle pain (tightness) so intense that it stops you in your tracks? This tightening of a muscle, usually in the calf, is called a muscle cramp or “charley horse.” They are defined as a sudden and involuntary muscle contraction that can cause severe pain. Muscle cramps are typically harmless but in some cases they can be red flags for underlying problems.

What are some causes of muscle cramps?
• Dehydration: decreased fluid to the muscle doesn’t allow for proper function disrupting nerve endings.
• Mineral Deficiency: not allowing for proper nerve conduction. This can happen during pregnancy due to depleted magnesium and potassium.
• Medications treating other medical conditions such as blood pressure medication
• Overuse, exercise intensity and fatigue
• Neurological: from Multiple Sclerosis, Osteoarthritis, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy

How to prevent muscle cramps/self-care?
• Stay properly hydrated. Drink plenty of water!
• Exercise coupled with good stretching practices

When to consult a medical professional?
• Cramps happen frequently and cause severe discomfort
• Cramps are associated with leg swelling, redness or skin changes
• Cramps are associated with muscle weakness
• Cramps don’t improve with self-care
• Cramps aren’t associated with an obvious cause, such as strenuous exercise.

Kerra Pietsch, LPTA
Physical Therapist Assistant
Andover Physical Therapy

March 28th, 2018

Posted In: General

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