What are muscle cramps?

A muscle cramp is an involuntary and forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax. Muscle cramping can occur in any skeletal muscle but are more prone in muscles that cross over two joints (calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, etc.). A muscle cramp can involve one muscle or several muscles in a concentrated area and can be due to electrolyte imbalances, dehydration or overexertion/repetitive movement tasks. The intensity of the cramp can be a slight twitch to extreme pain.
Eric Olsen
Muscle cramps occur when all of the fibers in a muscle contract at once. They usually last for a few moments and vary in intensity from mild flutterings of the muscle to severe spasms. Cramps are generally caused by low levels of minerals in the body, dehydration, an injury, or obstruction of blood flow to the working muscle. Muscle cramps, most commonly in the legs, may result from peripheral vascular disease in which the vessels supplying blood to the working muscles are narrowed by atherosclerosis (angina pectoris, that biting or crushing chest pain that plagues millions of Americans, is essentially a cramp in the heart muscle resulting from the same cause, narrowing of the coronary arteries).
Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

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Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

An easy-to-follow programme for lengthening and improving lives. More than an exercise guide, this text is an effective tool for making meaningful lifestyle decisions to benefit long-term fitness. In...

Muscle cramps are the spastic tightening of the body's muscles. They are involuntary and unexpected; often occurring with great pain. People commonly refer to muscle cramps as charley horses. They can happen to anyone; regardless of age or health. However, older people tend to get them more often than younger people.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.