Symptoms and Signs of Muscle Cramps

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/22/2022

Doctor's Notes on How to Stop Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps are involuntarily and sustained contractions of a muscle without relaxation. A muscle cramp can occur in any muscle. They commonly occur in the muscles of the legs and feet. They may last from a few seconds to several minutes or even longer. Many different conditions can result in a muscle cramp. Some of the most common causes are dehydration, injury, and vigorous exercise or activity.

Signs and symptoms associated with muscle cramps depend on the location of the cramp. Symptoms include pain at the site of the cramp that may be severe. Other associated symptoms and signs can include

  • firmness,
  • tenderness,
  • bulging of the muscle,
  • swelling,
  • soreness, and
  • gait disturbances (if the cramp occurs in the leg or foot).

What Is the Treatment for Muscle Cramps?

Muscle cramps are typically temporary discomforts that can be treated with self-care measures. Both warm and cold therapy can be effective. Treatments include the following:

  • Stretching
  • Massage
  • Use of heating pads, warm towels, or warm baths
  • Application of ice packs

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.