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Painful Muscle Cramps: Can It Be A Health Risk?

Updated on March 6, 2015

What Is Muscle Cramp?

A muscle cramp is an uncontrollable and painful muscle spasm. When it attacks, you can feel a large lump in the affected muscles because the muscles tighten uncontrollably and there is very little you can do to prevent it from happening. Together with the large lump in the affected muscles, pain immediately starts. They can cause excruciating pain to the affected area.

Which Body Parts Are Most Commonly Affected

The most commonly involved muscles that get muscle cramps are the calves. By far, it is the most prone body part that gets chronic muscle cramps. Other parts of the body may also be affected by muscle cramps but the frequency of their attacks are not as often.



What Causes Muscles Cramps

  • Excessive physical activity or excessive exercise
  • Excessive physical labor or physical stress
  • Poor physical condition
  • Poor nutritional intake
  • An extreme weather condition; a weather that is either extremely cold or extremely hot
  • Muscles that have been subjected to extreme condition
  • Overused muscles
  • Muscle injury
  • Dehydration or electrolyte disturbance (excessive perspiration, diarrhea,

    and vomiting)

  • Mineral depletion (low levels of potassium and

    low levels of other minerals in the body such as magnesium and calcium)

  • Muscle strain and fatigued muscles
  • Reduced blood flow through the muscles
  • Prolonged sitting or lying down
  • Poor flexibility or tight muscles
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Nerve problems
  • Narrowing of the arteries that block blood supply that decreases blood circulation in the body
  • Pregnancy (calcium deficiency during pregnancy)
  • Certain medications (side effects of some medication)

Should It Be A Cause For Health Concern?

Muscle cramps are generally harmless and are not a cause for health concern. A ‘once in a while’ occurrence is not a health risk. It is painful and there is nothing much that can be done during its attack but a person can be rest assured that it is not going to be a cause for unnecessary illness in the future. It should be a cause for concern though when it becomes chronic and more and more muscles are being affected.

When Does It Become A Health Risk?

Muscle cramps are usually benign and the body may just be stressed out for the moment. However, there are a few medical conditions where a person can develop chronic muscle cramps. Nerve problems, kidney problems, diabetes, anemia, thyroid problems, restless leg syndrome, varicose veins, and muscle fatigue are few conditions where a person may experience chronic muscle cramps. People who have metabolic problems or are using certain medications may also experience them. It can also be a symptom of an underlying disease such as atherosclerosis or narrowing of the arteries.

Can Muscle Cramps Be Prevented?

Muscle cramps start and stop on their own but there are a few steps you can do to decrease its severity and duration. During cramping, (1) putting the leg on a sitting position, perpendicular to the floor, can help lessen its duration. Evidently, a lying down position will increase its duration. (2) Then putting your hands against the cramps and putting pressure on it until it stops can help stop cramping if it’s successful. Otherwise, it can at least help reduce its duration. It can only be done if the cramps occur in the calf muscles. After cramping, gently stretch the affected muscles to help decrease the pain overtime.

Muscle cramps are mainly caused by mineral depletion such as lack of potassium and/or other minerals. Eating an adequate amount of fruits that are rich in potassium and other minerals can help lessen its occurrence. Taking vitamin B complex can also help lessen its occurrence.

Increase your level of cardiovascular exercise. It helps with blood circulation in the muscles thus giving your muscles more oxygen for it to breathe. Improving your cardiovascular health will improve your overall muscles. Stretching can help reduce muscle cramps. Simply stretching your muscles should help decrease your chances of muscle cramping. Ensuring you get an adequate amount of water a day will help reduce cramping. Ensuring you get a nutritionally adequate diet and getting a regular massage can help.


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    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 3 years ago

      Hi Nell, good to know it's got better. You probably have a better diet now. The frequency of cramps lessen with better diet and physical activities. Thanks for reading. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi, I used to get terrible cramps in my legs at night, but over the years its got better, but they are a real pain, I do remember reading that lack of salt makes it worse, interesting stuff, really useful too, nell

    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 5 years ago

      Hi Quicksand, glad you agreed with me. :) Yes, my offline activities are quite busy these days but I still find the time to log in every night, I guess my day isn't really complete without logging in. lol.

      Cheers and great fortune to you too, friend. :)

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 5 years ago

      Hi Beats, how are you doing today? Busy as ever? Well I guess you are dead right in your analysis!

      In my younger days I never even touched fruits as they used to grow on trees, were not trendy, available in abundance, and very cheap too. I used to go in for custard, puddings and such stuff.

      But now we make caramel and such stuff at home only when we invite guests for a meal. And so nowadays I get to eat a lot of fruits although they still grow on trees! However fruits are a lot more expensive now than they were then. That probably explains it all. Well, you did!

      "Other sites?" Well I go as QuickSand on SheToldMe, BestReviewer and on Excerptz. (which is no more) I intend joining one more site just for backlinks. There too I'll be QuickSand!

      Cheers and great fortune to you!

    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 5 years ago

      Hi Quicksand, nope, it doesn't affect only the young. It can affect everyone of any age. Maybe your muscles were overworked when you were younger and you just probably have a more relaxed lifestyle these days but it can affect anyone who is stressed in life. And salt intake is not a solution either, sorry about that. lol.

      I don't think you can substitute potassium with sodium. Taking more salt will increase your sodium without helping you with the potassium you need. Taking fruits and veggies that are rich in potassium will give you better results.

      Thanks for reading. Hope to find out who you are in other sites. :D Cheers. :)

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 5 years ago

      I guess it affects only the young. In my younger days I used to get muscle cramps whenever I swim or run or do some physical activity. (Except one thing, Lol!)

      I cannot remember if salt intake solved the problem or not. But cramps were frequent.

      Whatever physical activity I do now I don't get them. I don't miss them either!

      Cheers and good luck with your online activities! :)