Doctor's Notes on How to Stop Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps are involuntarily and sustained contraction 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 can include firmness, tenderness, bulging of the muscle, swelling, soreness, and gait disturbances (if the cramp occurs in the leg or foot).
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Chronic PainChronic pain is pain that persists for a period of six months or longer, and is the result of a long-standing medical condition(s) or damage to the body. Common sources of chronic pain include headaches, back pain, and arthritis. There are several types of pain including general somatic pain, visceral pain, bone pain, muscle cramps, neuropathy, circulatory problems, and headache pain. Chronic pain may be managed with over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Dehydration in AdultsDehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids (mostly water), exceeds the amount that is taken in. Causes of dehydration include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, diseases (diabetes), impaired ability to drink, lack of access to safe drinking water, and injuries to the skin. Common symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, dry skin, headache, low urine output, tiredness, sleepiness, dry mouth, and increased thirst. Treatment of dehydration depends upon the severity of the condition.
Dehydration in ChildrenDehydration in children can result from not drinking enough liquids, vomiting, diarrhea, or combination of these conditions. Causes of dehydration in children include viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, diabetes, and increased sweating, and others. Symptoms include sunken eyes, decrease in urination, no tears when crying, dry mouth, lethargy, and irritability. Treatment at home includes proper fluid replacement. Some cases of dehydration are so severe they may require hospitalization.
Heat CrampsHeat cramps are brief, painful muscle cramps that occur can occur when a person is working or exercising in a hot environment. Heat cramp signs and symptoms include involuntary muscle spasms of the large muscles of the body with profuse sweating, the cramping muscles are those that usually have been stressed. The cause of heat cramps is not well known, however, those at risk are infants and children, the elderly, those without proper air conditioning in hot environments, alcohol use, and certain medications. Heat cramps generally do not require medical attention, however, if heat exhaustion or heat stroke is suspected, seek medical care immediately.
What Do Twitches Mean?Muscle twitching is when muscles contract involuntarily. Also called muscle fasciculation, twitches can occur on any part of the body. Most of the time twitches are harmless, but in some cases, they may be a sign of a problem with the nervous system.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of Period Cramps?The quickest ways to get rid of period cramps are to take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever, do some light exercise, and apply heat to the lower abdomen. Period cramps (also called menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea) are a common occurrence in women in their reproductive years.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.