Skeletal Muscle Cramps

by Sharon Hopkins

What are Skeletal Muscle Cramps?

A muscle cramp or spasm is when the muscle contracts involuntarily and suddenly. Muscle cramps happen unexpectedly and are often painful, though they are resolved soon enough. The skeletal muscles that we control voluntarily are most prone to cramping, especially during vigorous physical activity. There are four major kinds of skeletal muscle cramps: contractures, true cramps, tetany, and dystonic cramps.

Cause of Muscle Cramps in Legs

The main causes of muscle cramps in legs are as follows.

  • Rigorous Physical Activity: When a muscle is used vigorously, such as when involved in sports activities, exercising, or dancing, it leads to muscle fatigue, which, in turn, leads to cramping. The cramping may arise during the activity or hours later. Sitting down or lying in an odd position can also cause muscle fatigue that causes cramps.
  • Dehydration: The lack of fluids or extreme fluid loss due to perspiration while performing vigorous physical activities could also start a cramp. This kind of cramp is a greater possibility during warm weather and could also be an early sign of heat stroke. Sodium reduction due to dehydration is also linked to cramps.
  • Injury: Constant muscle cramps may happen as a defensive mechanism after an injury like a broken bone. The cramp minimizes movement and helps keep the injured area steady.
  • Electrolyte Depletion: Loss of key minerals and salts like calcium, magnesium, and potassium could cause a spasm in your muscle.
  • Medications: The side effects of some medications could cause your leg to cramp. Some known medications that cause cramping are cimetidine, clofibrate, diuretics (water tablets), lithium, nicotinic acid, nifedipine, phenothiazines, penicillamine, salbutamol, terbutaline, and statins.
Symptoms of Muscles Cramps

The symptoms of muscle cramps depend on which muscle is cramping and the situation that led to the spasm. Excessive work by your muscles usually causes a skeletal muscle cramp, as the muscles contract you will feel the onset of a sharp pain. Another symptom to look out for is a swelling or bulge where the muscle is located. A spasm usually goes away after a few seconds, but in some cases, it may last for a few minutes or longer. Muscle cramps are usually never that severe and the pain eventually subsides.

Muscle Cramp Relief

Muscle cramp relief can be achieved by stretching before exercising and staying hydrated before going to bed (if you are exercising, a sports drink would help). You could also have some calcium, magnesium, and potassium supplements. If this is a regular problem consult your doctor. You could massage the muscle before it has a chance to cramp.


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