Mus­cle cramps are ex­tremely com­mon, and ev­ery­one has ex­pe­ri­enced a cramp at some point in their life. Cramps can oc­cur in both adults and in chil­dren. For most peo­ple, they oc­cur oc­ca­sion­ally, how­ever, they have been known to be re­cur­rent and prob­lem­atic.

Business Daily (Kenya) - - HEALTH -

Nu­tri­tional de­fi­cien­cies

Lack of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als (es­sen­tial salts) in the body can lead to mus­cle twitches, weak­ness and cramps. The com­mon cul­prits are de icien­cies in cal­cium, mag­ne­sium, sodium, potas­sium and vi­ta­min B.

Blood cir­cu­la­tion prob­lems

If mus­cles fail to get su icient nu­tri­ents and oxy­gen, they be­come sus­cep­ti­ble to cramps. This hap­pens if the blood ves­sels (mainly ar­ter­ies) are dis­eased. (Ar­ter­ies carry blood from the heart to dif­fer­ent parts of the body whilst veins trans­port blood in the op­po­site di­rec­tion). If ar­ter­ies in the arms and legs are un­healthy, it is known as pe­riph­eral ar­te­rial dis­ease (PAD). In PAD, the ar­ter­ies har­den (due to build-up of choles­terol rich lay­ers known as ‘plaques’ on the in­ner sur­face of the ves­sel). These ves­sels can­not sup­ply blood to the legs su iciently and causes one to get leg cramps as you walk. These cramps are of­ten re­lieved by rest­ing. As PAD pro­gres­sively gets worse, the pain oc­curs even at rest (some­times it is so se­vere it wakes you up at night). Noc­tur­nal cramps caused by PAD are of­ten re­lieved by hang­ing the legs/feet out of the bed. PAD can also cause the hair over the legs to dis­ap­pear and the soles of the feet to ap­pear very pale. The feet can also de­velop un­usual sen­sa­tions such as numb­ness, pins and nee­dles and burn­ing sen­sa­tions. They are also very cold to touch.


Some med­i­ca­tion can make you sus­cep­ti­ble to mus­cle spasms. These in­clude pills known as di­uret­ics (used to treat high blood pres­sure, heart fail­ure and kid­ney prob­lems), Alzheimer’s and Parkin­son’s med­i­ca­tion, choles­terol low­er­ing tablets and some anti-asthma med­i­ca­tion. If you sus­pect that your med­i­ca­tion may be the cause of your cramps, talk to your doc­tor about in­d­ing you a vi­able al­ter­na­tive (do not stop long term pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion with­out the guid­ance of your physi­cian).


Mus­cle cramps are rel­a­tively com­mon if you ex­er­cise vig­or­ously or go for long pe­ri­ods of time with­out ad­e­quately hy­drat­ing your­self. Low lev­els of wa­ter in your body causes the salts (elec­trolytes) in your body to be­come im­bal­anced and this trig­gers mus­cle spasms.

Medical con­di­tions

Health prob­lems like di­a­betes and dis­or­ders in nerve, kid­ney, liver or thy­roid func­tion put you at higher risk of de­vel­op­ing mus­cle cramps.

Nerve com­pres­sion (spinal prob­lems)

Nerves may be com­pressed in as they come out from the var­i­ous open­ings in the back bone. This com­monly oc­curs in the lower part of the back bone (an area known as the ‘lum­bar spine’). This is some­times re­ferred to as a ‘pinched nerve’. Nerve com­pres­sion pro­duces cramp-like pain in your legs. The pain usu­ally wors­ens as you walk. The pain is usu­ally re­lieved if you lean for­ward as you walk (the po­si­tion you would take if you were push­ing a pram or shop­ping cart). Although nerve com­pres­sion is com­mon in the lower back, it can hap­pen in any part of the back bone. If it hap­pens around the neck, the cramps tend to oc­cur in your arm.


Mus­cle cramps are very com­mon in preg­nancy (es­pe­cially in the later stages of the preg­nancy). The ex­act rea­son for this is not well un­der­stood although it is thought to pos­si­bly be re­lated to hor­monal changes.

Ex­er­cise re­lated cramps

Ex­er­cise re­lated cramps are due to mus­cle fa­tigue (due to overex­er­tion whilst ex­er­cis­ing), insu icient warm­ing up be­fore ex­er­cise, de­hy­dra­tion and ex­er­cis­ing in the heat.


Aging does not in it­self cause you to get mus­cle cramps, but it is as­so­ci­ated with a higher risk of get­ting them (usu­ally due to other health is­sues).


Some­times mus­cle cramps oc­cur with­out any ob­vi­ous cause. These are re­ferred to as be­ing ‘idio­pathic’ and can be very frus­trat­ing to deal with.

When to seek medical at­ten­tion

If you have per­sis­tent mus­cle cramps that are lim­it­ing your daily ac­tiv­i­ties or wak­ing you up at night, it is in your best in­ter­est to visit your doc­tor. Cramps of this na­ture of­ten re­quire in-depth as­sess­ment. The man­age­ment of the cramps will de­pend on the un­der­ly­ing cause.

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