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Last Updated: Dec 09, 2021
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Muscle Cramps: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

What is the treatment? Causes Symptoms Treatment Eligibility Ineligibility Side Effects Post-treatment Guidelines Recovery How long do cramps last? Price Diet Results Alternatives

What is the treatment?

Muscle cramp is a common difficulty that can occur among people belonging to various age-groups; it can affect elderly people and adults, as well as children. Muscle spasm or a sudden throb in the muscle is felt most commonly on the leg, feet, or around the calf area, that is, around the knee when a muscle, or a group of muscles get contracted involuntarily and the muscle(s) do not get back to their normal position anytime soon, until and unless some stretching exercises on part of the sufferer is performed.

Muscle cramps can occur due to rigorous exercise, (which causes the tiring of the muscles) and other factors such as dehydration and intake of some particular medicines. Among older people, nocturnal cramp is a common ailment that can be checked by pointing one’s toe downward.

Remedies for common cramps include the intake of enough fluids and nutrition, stretching, maintaining proper body posture and being careful while exercising. If the muscle cramp crosses the threshold of tolerance, hot water massage or application of ice on the affected area are recommended. A heating pad or a towel soaked in warm water can be applied on the cramp. A jet of hot warm water can be directed onto the cramp; likewise, a hot shower may also help. Those who face severe and persistent cramps should see a doctor and take the prescribed medications. Many medicos recommend the intake of Vitamin B complex for treating muscle cramps; however, the effectiveness of this alternative is not foolproof.

What deficiency causes Muscle Cramps?

Muscle Cramps are usually due to the deficiency of magnesium in the body. Among the other minerals, magnesium holds fourth place in abundance and is one of the essential elements present in the body responsible for the functioning of the body. It is responsible for performing various biochemical processes in the body which include muscle contraction and nerve transmission as well.

What are 5 common causes of Muscle Cramps?

Muscles cramps may be caused by some of the reasons such as:

  • Strain or overuse of the muscles.
  • Nerve compression, which may be due to spinal cord injury.
  • Dehydration.
  • Deficiency of electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
  • Decrease in blood supply to the muscles.
  • Certain medications.
  • Pregnancy.

What actually happens when your Muscle Cramps?

In Muscle Cramps, there is a sudden involuntary contraction of the muscles that remain in that state for a short or comparatively long duration. The muscles usually get locked in this case and are accompanied by tightness and intense pain in the muscles. A part of a muscle or a whole group of muscles including voluntary muscles is affected. Among these, the most commonly occurring cramps occur in the feet, hands, arms, abdomen, and muscles of the rib cage.

How is the treatment done?

Muscles cramps are undoubtedly disruptive, but ordinary cramps that occur due to coercive contraction of voluntary muscles can be treated with a little amount of exercise and muscle relaxation by massaging the affected area.

Cramps that occur owing to some particular medical conditions can be diagnosed and treated by specialists. Other than that, common leg cramps can be cured by performing an exercise where a person needs to stand away from a wall and then place the forearms against the wall while keeping the knees and the back straight and the heels touching the floor. Muscle stretching is another exercise that can also be performed where a person lies on his/her back and flexes the ankle by pulling the toes up as far as possible while keeping the knees straight. Cramps on the palms can be removed by pressing the fist against a wall.

Apart from exercises, drinking enough water and fluids having electrolyte combinations help to reduce the frequency of muscle cramps. Cramps that result from injuries can be treated by medicines. In recent times, people having “Dystonia” (a disorder in muscle tone), have found relief by being injected with doses of Botulism toxin or Botox. Cramps may occur due to several ailments, and these cramps are treated by treating the core illness.

People suffering from chronic muscle cramps can take 1-1.5 grams of calcium or 50-100 milligrams of magnesium daily. (However, people with kidney problems shall take regular blood tests for additional magnesium in the blood which could prove hazardous). Vitamin D and E are other supplements that older people can use to prevent themselves from regular, agonizing, muscle cramps.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

Anybody from a child to an elderly person suffering from muscle cramps can perform regular exercises and consume sufficient nutrition and fluids to prevent muscle cramps. If a person faces persistent cramps that refuse to go away even after being treated by exercises or common home remedies, he/she should see a doctor. Other circumstances for which a doctor needs to be visited include a cramp that is an outcome of a particular condition or an injury.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Those people suffering from kidney disorders who consume magnesium pills for muscle cramps shall get their blood tested regularly for additional magnesium or cleanse themselves off of extra magnesium by taking the required amount of calcium. Surplus magnesium deposition in blood is hazardous for health and those who have kidney disorders tend to develop this condition because of their inability to excrete properly. Another measure to rectify this condition is the intake of diuretics that encourage proper urination.

Are there any side effects?

Certain medication from muscle cramps can induce side effects like defects in the system of reproduction. It can cause miscarriage too. It can be responsible for the reduction of platelets count, and can cause other symptoms like nausea, headaches, deafness, vision and heart problems. That is why the use of Quinine is usually prohibited but in some cases quinine solution, also known as tonic water is given to patients to prevent nocturnal cramps.

Magnesium is another supplement that doctors often recommend among patients to get respite from muscle cramps. However it is not recommended for those with kidney problems and even if it is, it should be balanced with a proper dosage of calcium or diuretics.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

In the current scenario, Botox therapy is applied when it comes to the treatment of muscle cramps. It reduces muscle cramps and the effect lasts for several months after which the process needs to be repeated.

Apart from that regular exercises like muscle stretching, ankle and palm flexing, maintaining correct posture while conducting any activity will keep ordinary cramps at bay. Cramps could be an indispensable outcome of rigorous exercise that not only causes fatigue but also increased perspiration that results in the loss of important minerals like potassium and sodium, thereby conducing muscle cramps. Regulating these conditions can only be made possible by the intake of electrolyte solution as well as warm up and cool down exercises. Those with severe cramps can perform these routines and consume Vitamin D, E, calcium and magnesium rich food professional medical treatment.

How long does it take to recover?

An ordinary muscle pain takes a few minutes to recover if proper stretching or relaxation massages are performed on the affected area. If the cramp is severe it can even take an hour before it gets healed completely.

Nocturnal cramp is common among old people and relief can be attained within a few minutes by moving the toe downwards.

Serious cramps resulting from dystonia (it is a condition where the muscular tones are disordered) that can be treated by physiotherapy or Botox injections are ongoing processes that patients need to continue as long as possible.

How long do cramps last?

The duration of the cramps depends mainly upon the fact where the cramp occurs. In case of menstrual cramps which occur as a throbbing and cramping pain in the pelvic region, the pain usually starts one to two days before the commencement of the menstrual flow. It continues for two to three days or several days in some cases. In case of cramps occurring in feet, arms, and hands, the duration of cramps may be ranging from a few seconds to minutes.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The cost for treating muscle cramps depends upon the severity of the condition. If it is an ordinary cramp it would be cured by home remedies. But if it entails medications or physiotherapy, the cost could be anywhere within Rs. 250 - Rs 1000.

What can you eat to stop cramps?

As nutritional deficiencies are one of the reasons responsible for Muscle Cramps, so either nutritional supplements or a healthy nutritious diet should be preferred in this case. Generally, calcium, sodium, and magnesium deficiencies are responsible. Foods such as milk, yoghurt, canned fish, nuts, and seeds fulfill the calcium deficiency while cheese, celery, pickled foods, and beetroot are needed for sodium intake. Magnesium requirement is fulfilled by the intake of whole grains, nuts, seeds, and raw cocoa.

What can I drink for leg cramps?

Dehydration is one of the important factors that are responsible for Muscle Cramps. Hence it is preferred to drink a lot of water in order to relieve the pain during it. Water consumption should be increased throughout the day which helps not only in relieving the pain but also plays a role in its prevention as well. In addition to water, other fluids such as sports drinks like Gatorade also work.

Is salt good for cramps?

The requirement of salt in the case of Muscle Cramps has not been proved yet. However, the reason that is usually considered as a causative factor for this condition points towards the low level of salts in one’s diet, especially sodium. Based on this, it is advised to increase the salt intake in the diet, though the fact has been discarded by some science-based studies.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

An ordinary muscle pain takes a few minutes to recover if proper stretching or relaxation massages are performed on the affected area. If the cramp is severe it can even take an hour before it gets healed completely.

Nocturnal cramp is common among old people and relief can be attained within a few minutes by moving the toe downwards.

Serious cramps resulting from dystonia (it is a condition where the muscular tones are disordered) that can be treated by physiotherapy or Botox injections are ongoing processes that patients need to continue as long as possible.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

There are some natural processes by which one can prevent the inflammation of muscles. These include application of chamomile oil on the affected area, consumption of cherry juice, and blueberries that work as antioxidants. Pills and creams that are infused with the goodness of Cayenne Pepper also work wonders when it comes to reducing muscle cramps. Apart from all these proper intakes of nutritious food, sunbathing, and adequate rest help in relaxing the muscles, thereby preventing muscle cramps.

Summary: Muscle Cramps are accompanied by a sudden involuntary contraction of the muscles that remain in that state for a short or comparatively long duration. The muscles usually get locked in this case and are accompanied by tightness and intense pain in the muscles. Nutritional supplements or a healthy nutritious diet especially rich in sodium and magnesium should be preferred as preventive measures. Such eatables include milk, yogurt, canned fish, nuts and seeds, cheese, celery, pickled foods, beetroot, and whole grains.

Popular Questions & Answers

Hello doctor! I am a 27 years old male. I am having pain in my lower back. Pain, however, is bearable as if now. I am afraid this is kidney stone. Doctor can you please help me in knowing what are the common symptoms of kidney stones?

Nephrologist, Ahmedabad
There is a general rule regarding the kidney stones - bigger the stone, more visible the symptoms. If you have the following symptoms, check with your doctor as early as possible. These are - acute pain on either side of your lower back, blood in ...

My age is 58 yrs. I have pain in lower back pain from last 2-3 months, it gets severe now, can't stand to walk. When I keep on walking I don't feel so much pain but when I sit & after that again I can't stand up to walk again. Have been using volini gel, it helps a bit.

Master of surgery in orthopedics , Fellow in Spine Surgery, Fellowship in Joint Replacement
Orthopedic Doctor, Hyderabad
Need to see your flexuon extension x-rays whether you have any instability. If no instability usually by strengthening back muscles and medications will help. U might be suffering from degenerative spine nothing to worry it's usually age related.

Helo doctors my uncle had knee pain and back pain that's why some one suggested amruth noni artho plus. So according to that my uncle has taken 4 bottle amruth noni till now. My question is. Is amruth noni safe for him should he continue it?

Orthopedic Doctor, Mumbai
Amruth noni contains noni juice, a component that has been studied in mice and found effective to treat arthritis and joint pains with no serious side effects. Although no large scale trials have been published on its effect in humans. So my advic...

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