Muscle cramps are painful involuntary contractions of the muscles induced by strenuous physical activities. It usually affects the voluntary muscles of the body. It involves any muscle of the body. It is felt mostly at night. It is caused by overuse of the muscles, electrolyte loss, nutritional deficiencies, injury, pregnancy, kidney failure and many more.


It affects more commonly old people. It is represented by hardening or stiffening of the muscles with cramping pain and discoloration. It is a short durational condition that resolves in a few seconds and minutes. It can be managed with simple home remedies.

Are There Any Complications For Muscle Cramps?

Muscle cramps tend to go by themselves. They end in few seconds to few minutes. They rarely cause any serious health problems. On the other hand, they are an indication of some illness. There is no known complication for muscle cramps.


If muscle cramp develops during swimming, it becomes extremely difficult to move the affected muscle. In such a situation, serious consequences may happen that may result in drowning. (1)

If muscle cramp leads to the following symptoms, then medical intervention is necessary-


  • Severe discomfort is felt
  • Leg swelling, redness or skin discoloration is associated with muscle cramps
  • Frequent episodes of the cramps
  • Muscle weakness is associated with cramping pain
  • Cramping pain does not settle with self-care
  • There is no specific cause behind the cramps such as exercises

Muscle cramps are a common entity in the medical world. Almost every individual has experienced muscle cramps at least once in their life. Muscle cramps are painful spasms or contraction of a muscle fiber or group of muscles. They appear involuntarily and suddenly. They occur at night following a strenuous physical activity in the daytime.

Muscle cramps mostly affect skeletal muscles of our body. The commonly affected muscles are calf muscles (back muscle of the lower leg, also known as calf muscles), hamstrings (muscles at the back side of the thigh) and quadriceps (muscles present in the front side of the thigh). It can also involve muscles of arms, hands, abdomen, and feet. (2)

Muscle cramps can affect anyone at any age or any gender or race or community. However, old aged people are more likely to develop these cramps due to degenerative changes in the muscles and blood vessels. Women frequently develop muscle cramps in the abdomen during menstruation.

Muscle cramps are caused by poor circulation of blood to the muscles. It is caused when muscles are overused or overstrained. It is triggered by a loss of electrolytes in dehydration, direct injuries, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, nutritional therapies, excess alcohol consumption, kidney failure, certain medicines like diuretics and menstruation.
Its symptoms included the appearance of hard lumps in the muscle that restrict the movement of the muscle and other structures attached to the muscle. It leads to hardening and tightening of the muscles. It causes sharp shooting pain that appears suddenly. It may cause discoloration of the skin and twitching of muscles in some cases. It develops mostly at night or following physical exertion. It subsides in few minutes. (3)

The most positive aspect of muscle cramps is that they are not a serious condition and does not harm health. It appears suddenly and goes quickly in few seconds or minutes. It can be managed efficiently with home treatment. Gentle massage, slight stretching or heat therapy or cold therapy or combination of both the therapies can relieve the symptoms of this condition. If strenuous physical activities or workout sessions are modified, then muscle cramps may improve.


Muscle cramps are a sign of other health problems like diabetes, kidney problems, and others. It is represented by a sudden sharp pain that usually appears in calf muscles. It ends by its own with some home treatment. It rarely induces serious illness. It is not known that it can cause complication.


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Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: April 26, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer


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