Muscle cramps are involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscles that do not relax. Extremely common, any muscles that have voluntary control, including some organs, are subject to cramp. Since there is such variety in the types of muscle cramps that can occur, many causes and preventative medications are known. Stretching is the most common way to stop or prevent most muscle cramps. Read more: Muscle Cramps Article
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Picture of Hamstring Muscle
The prominent tendons at the back of the knee. See a picture of Hamstring Muscle and learn more about the health topic.
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Related Disease Conditions
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Myofascial pain syndrome is muscle pain in the body's soft tissues due to injury or strain. Symptoms include muscle pain with tender points and fatigue. Treatment usually involves physical therapy, massage therapy, or trigger point injection.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Early Warning Signs and Types
Multiple sclerosis (MS) can be thought of as an immune-mediated inflammatory process involving different areas of the central nervous system (CNS) at various points in time. Early warning signs and symptoms of MS in children, teens, and adults are similar; however, children and teens with pediatric also may have seizures and a complete lack of energy. Adults with MS do not have these signs and symptoms. Other signs and symptoms of MS include inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis), changes in vision, Wiping or having tissues around the eye and moving the eye may be painful, and double vision. There are four types of MS, relapsing remitting MS (RRMS), secondary progressive MS (SPMS), primary progressive MS (PPMS), and progressive relapsing MD (PRMS).
Stiff-Person syndrome is a neurological disorder associated with features of an autoimmune disease. Signs and symptoms of Stiff-Person syndrome include a heightened sensitivity to stimuli (noise, touch, emotional distress) and fluctuating muscle rigidity of the trunk and limbs. Conditions associated with Stiff-Person syndrome include thyroiditis, vitiligo, pernicious anemia, and diabetes. Treatment for Stiff-Person syndrome is generally medication to control symptoms.
Shin splints result from inflammation from injury to the tendon and adjacent tissues in the front of the outer leg. Shin splints commonly occur in runners or aggressive walkers, causing pain and discomfort. An increase in workout intensity, weak ankles and pronation may be to blame for shin splints. Stretching, strengthening, and icing the affected area are effective treatments for shin splints. Rest and anti-inflammatory medications are also advised.
In hypoparathyroidism, the parathyroid gland does not produce enough parathyroid hormone. Causes of hypoparathyroidism include injury to the parathyroid glands, autoimmune disorder association, or may be present ab birth. Symptoms of hypoparathyroidism include: tingling fingers, toes, and lips, brittle nails, dry, coarse skin, dry hair; memory loss, headaches, severe muscle cramps, cataracts, malformed teeth, and convulsions. Treatment of hypoparathyroidism is to restore the calcium and phosphorus to normal levels in the body.
Muscle spasms are involuntary muscle contractions that come on suddenly and are usually quite painful. Dehydration, doing strenuous exercise in a hot environment, prolonged muscle use, and certain diseases of the nervous system may cause muscle spasms. Symptoms and signs of a muscle spasm include an acute onset of pain and a possible bulge seen or felt beneath the skin where the muscle is located. Gently stretching the muscle usually resolves a muscle spasm.
Heat Exhaustion (First Aid Tips)
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement fluids. Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. A person suffering from heat exhaustion should stop the activity are doing, move to a cooler environment, and rehydrate with liquids, for example, water or sports drinks. Complications of heat exhaustion are dehydration, muscle weakness, nausea, and vomiting. Heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke (a medical emergency) if not treated.
Spider Bites (Black Widow and Brown Recluse)
Most spiders in the United States are harmless; however, black widow and brown recluse spider bites may need medical treatment. Symptoms of a harmless spider bite generally include pain, redness, and irritation. Signs and symptoms of black widow spider bite include pain immediately, redness, burning, and swelling at the site of the bite. Sometimes the person will feel a pinprick or double fang marks. Brown recluse spider bite symptoms and signs are a mild sting, followed by severe pain and local redness. These symptoms usually develop within eight hours or more after the bite. Black widow and brown recluse spider bites have similar symptoms, for example, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and abdominal or joint pain. Generally, brown recluse and black widow spider bites need immediate medical treatment. If you think that you or someone you know has been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider, go to your nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department for medical treatment.
Pregnancy (Week by Week, Trimesters)
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary by stage (trimester). The earliest pregnancy symptom is typically a missed period, but others include breast swelling and tenderness, nausea and sometimes vomiting, fatigue, and bloating. Second trimester symptoms include backache, weight gain, itching, and possible stretch marks. Third trimester symptoms are additional weight gain, heartburn, hemorrhoids, swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face, breast tenderness, and trouble sleeping. Eating a healthy diet, getting a moderate amount of exercise, also are recommended for a healthy pregnancy. Information about the week by week growth of your baby in the womb are provided.
Dehydration is the excessive loss of body water. There are a number of causes of dehydration including heat exposure, prolonged vigorous exercise, and some diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms of dehydration include headache, lightheadedness, constipation, and bad breath. Treatment for dehydration is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressive neurological disease characterized by a fixed inexpressive face, a tremor at rest, slowing of voluntary movements, a gait with short accelerating steps, peculiar posture and muscle weakness, caused by degeneration of an area of the brain called the basal ganglia, and by low production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Most patients are over 50, but at least 10 percent are under 40.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a common cause for painful legs that typically eases with motion, and becomes worse and more noticeable at rest. This characteristic nighttime worsening can frequently lead to insomnia. Treatment of the symptoms of restless leg syndrome is generally with medication as well as treating any underlying condition causing restless leg syndrome.
Low Potassium (Hypokalemia)
Potassium is an essential electrolyte necessary for cell function. Low potassium (hypokalemia) may be caused by diarrhea, vomiting, ileostomy, colon polyps, laxative use, diuretics, elevated corticosteroid levels, renal artery stenosis, and renal tubular acidosis, or other medications. Symptoms of low potassium include weakness, aches, and cramps of the muscles. Treatment is dependent upon the cause of the low potassium (hypokalemia).
Hyperthermia (Heat-Related Illness)
Heat-related illness include heat rash, cramps, exhaustion, stroke, and sunburn. Treatment of heat related illnesses depend on the condition, but symptoms may include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, seizures, and coma. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and may result in death if not treated promptly. Heat exhaustion may lead to heat stroke if not treated properly.
Heat Stroke (A Very Serious Condition)
Heat stroke (heatstroke or sun stroke) is a form of hyperthermia. Heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not promptly and properly treated. Symptoms of heat stroke include high body temperature, absence of sweating, hot red or flushed dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, disorientation, seizure, and coma. A victim of heat stroke must receive immediate treatment to avoid permanent organ damage.
Hamstring injuries may range from minor strains to major ruptures. A hamstring injury causes spasm, tightness, and tenderness. More severe injuries may cause swelling and bruising. While most hamstring injuries heal without surgery, a complete rupture would require surgery.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins) located outside the heart and brain. While there are many causes of peripheral vascular disease, doctors commonly use the term peripheral vascular disease to refer to peripheral artery disease (peripheral arterial disease, PAD), a condition that develops when the arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms, and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of atherosclerosis. Peripheral artery disease symptoms include intermittent leg pain while walking, leg pain at rest, numbness in the legs or feet, and poor wound healing in the legs or feet. Treatment for peripheral artery disease include lifestyle measures, medication, angioplasty, and surgery.
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Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity or work in a hot, humid environment. Symptoms of heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms or legs that occur in association with strenuous activity. Heat cramps are part of a group of heat-related illnesses. Heat cramps can sometimes lead to heat exhaustion or, in severe instances, heat stroke, which is a true medical emergency.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis (Symptoms, Diet, Treatments, Pregnancy)
Hashimoto's thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder causing inflammation of the thyroid gland. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a type of hypothyroidism, and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US. Symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis may include dry skin, fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, excessive sleepiness, dry skin, dry coarse hair, difficulty swallowing, a lump in the front of the throat, muscle cramps, mood changes, vague aches and pains, problems concentrating, leg swelling, constipation, and depression. There is no cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Diet changes, natural supplements, vitamins, or other natural products will not treat Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Treatment for the autoimmune disorder is with thyroid hormone replacement therapy, which will be necessary for the rest of the person’s life.
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MS (Multiple Sclerosis) vs. ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Differences and Similarities
ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease) and MS (multiple sclerosis) are both diseases of the nervous system (neurodegenerative). ALS is a disease in which the nerve cells in the body are attacked by the immune system, although it's not considered an autoimmune disease by some scientists. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the insulated covering of the nerves (myelin sheath) in the CNS (central nervous system) degenerate, or deteriorate. Scientists don't know the exact cause of either problem. However, they have discovered that mutations in the gene that produces the SOD1 enzyme were associated with some cases of familial ALS. Scientists also theorize that multiple sclerosis may be caused by infection or vitamin D deficiency. ALS occurs between 50-70 years of age (the average age of occurrence ALS is 55), and mostly affects men. While MS occurs between 20-60 years of age, and mostly affects women. About 30,000 people in the US have ALS, and an average of 5,000 new diagnoses per year (that's about 15 new cases per week). Worldwide, MS affects more than 2.3 million people, with about 10,000 new cases diagnosed each year (that's about 200 new diagnoses per week).Some of the signs and symptoms of both diseases include muscle weakness, muscle spasms, problems walking, fatigue, slurred speech, and problems swallowing. ALS signs and symptoms that are different from MS include problems holding the head upright, clumsiness, muscle cramps and twitches, problems holding objects, and uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying. MS signs and symptoms that are different from ALS include vision problems, vertigo and balance problems, sexual problems, memory problems, depression, mood swings, and digestive problems. There is no cure for either disease, however the prognosis and life expectancy are different. Multiple sclerosis is not a fatal condition, while ALS progresses rapidly and leads to death.
Intermittent claudication, or pain and cramping in the lower leg is caused by inadequate blood flow to the leg muscles. This lack of blood flow causes a decrease in oxygen delivered to the muscles of the legs. Claudication is generally felt when walking and decreases with rest. In severe cases, claudication may be felt at rest. Narrowing of arteries cause claudication. Treatment includes exercise, medication, and in some cases surgery.
Cholera is an infectious disease characterized by intense vomiting and profuse watery diarrhea and that rapidly lease to dehydration and often death. Cholera is caused by infection with the bacteria Vibrio cholerae, which may be transmitted via infected fecal matter, food, or water.
Pain Management: Musculoskeletal Pain
Natural menopause is the permanent ending of menstruation that is not brought on by any type of medical treatment. For women undergoing natural menopause, the process is described in three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. However, not all women undergo natural menopause. Some women experience induced menopause as a result of surgery or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy.
Sprains and Strains
An injury to a ligament is called a sprain, and an injury to muscle or tendon is called a strain. Sprains and strains may be caused by repetitive movements or a single stressful incident. Symptoms and signs include pain and swelling. Though treatment depends upon the extent and location of the injury, rest, ice, compression, and elevation are key elements of treatment.
Treatment & Diagnosis
Medications & Supplements
- calcitriol (Rocaltrol)
- onabotulinumtoxinA, Botox, Botox Cosmetic
- Baclofen vs. Flexeril (Side Effects and Interactions)
- alprazolam (Xanax)
- Cyclobenzaprine vs. Xanax (alprazolam)
- diazepam (Valium, Diastat, Acudial, Diastat Pediatric, Diazepam Intensol)
- Cyclobenzaprine vs. Norco (hydrocodone acetaminophen)
- MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) Dietary Supplement
- methocarbamol (Robaxin)
- Cyclobenzaprine vs. Zanaflex
- orphenadrine (Norflex)
- baclofen (Gablofen, Lioresal)
- Cyclobenzaprine vs. Valium (diazepam)
- orphenadrine - injection, Norflex
- licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Prevention & Wellness
- Muscle Relaxants for Back Pain Are Soaring: Are They Safe?
- Health Tip: Understanding Muscle Spasms
- Health Tip: Reducing Soreness in Muscles
- Vitamin D is Key to Muscle Strength in Older Adults
- Health Tip: Muscle Strain Risk Factors
- Health Tip: Treating a Charley Horse
- A New Challenger to Medical Marijuana?
- Health Tip: Battling Muscle Cramps?
- Sky-High Temperatures Inside 'Bounce Houses'
- 'Heat Dome' Not Budging Until Week's End
- 'Heat Dome' Heats Up United States
- Keep Safe When Temperatures Soar
- Health Tip: What's Behind Muscle Cramps?
- Health Tip: Why Muscles Cramp
- Overuse Injuries More Common in High School Females
- Health Tip: Avoiding Leg Cramps
- Nighttime Leg Cramps Peak in Summer, Study Says
- Health Tip: Strained Hamstring?
- Avoid the Fall Sports Injury Trap
- Water: Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be Deadly for Athletes
- Health Tip: Easing Muscle Soreness
- Cholesterol Drugs Linked to Muscle, Joint Problems: Study
- Health Tip: Ease the Pain of Muscle Cramps
- Topical Products for Muscle, Joint Pain May Cause Burns: FDA
- NFL Docs Urge More Caution With Key Pain Med
- Health Tip: Heed the Warning Signs of Heat Exhaustion
- Massage Right After Muscle Injury May Boost Healing
- It's Not So Much the Heat, It's the Lack of Power
- Maintain Heart Health During Summer
- Health Tip: Warm Up Before You Exercise
- Health Tip: What's Causing My Muscle Cramps?
- College Athletes in Low-Contact Sports Have More Overuse Injuries
- Health Tip: At Risk for Muscle Cramps
- Ice Baths for Sore Muscles Can Work
- Gleevec Approval Widened to Include Rare Cancer
- Gleevec Gets High Marks for Leukemia Treatment
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