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A muscle cramp is a strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. It often occurs in the legs. A muscle cramp is also called a charley horse.
Nighttime leg cramps are usually sudden spasms, or tightening, of muscles in
the calf. The muscle cramps can sometimes happen in the thigh or the foot.
They often occur just as you are falling asleep or waking up.
The cause of muscle cramps isn't always known. Muscle cramps may be brought on by many conditions or activities, such as:
You may need to try several different ways to
stop a muscle cramp before you find what works best for you. Here are some things
you can try:
Here are some things
you can try for a leg cramp:
If you think a medicine is causing muscle cramps:
These tips may help prevent
If you are taking medicines that are known to cause leg
cramps, your doctor may prescribe different medicines.
Talk with your doctor if you have muscle
cramps that keep coming back or are severe. These may be symptoms of another problem, such as restless legs syndrome.
If cramps keep coming back, bother you a lot, or interfere with your sleep, your doctor may prescribe medicine that relaxes your muscles.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
provides information and education to raise the public's awareness of
musculoskeletal conditions, with an emphasis on preventive measures. The AAOS
website contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury
prevention, and wellness and exercise.
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Neurology (2010). AAN summary of evidence-based guideline for clinicians: Symptomatic treatment for muscle cramps. Available online: http://www.aan.com/practice/guideline/uploads/394.pdf.
American Academy of Neurology (2010). AAN summary of evidence-based guideline for patients and their families: Drug treatments for symptoms of muscle cramps. Available online: http://www.aan.com/practice/guideline/uploads/395.pdf.
Katzberg HD, et al. (2010). Assessment: Symptomatic treatment for muscle cramps (an evidence-based review): Report of the Therapeutics and Technology Assessment Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology, 74(8): 691–696. Available online: http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/full/74/8/691.
Young G (2009). Leg cramps, search date September 2008.
Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
June 3, 2013
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Karin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology
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