muscle cramp and muscle spasm full guidance

a Muscle cramp is a sudden, unwanted muscle contraction that can occur in any skeletal muscle(also called voluntary muscles) and also Involuntary muscles(like uterus, blood vessel wall, bowels, bile and urine passages and bronchial tree).
muscle cramps mostly happen in the back of your lower leg(soleus and gastrocnemius), the back of your thigh(hamstring which is biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus, glutes, adductor magnus, gracilis) , the front of your thigh(Quadriceps femoris which is rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, sartorius, adductor longus, psoas major, pectineus, illiacus), abdominal wall(rectus abdominis, external abdominal oblique, internal abdominal oblique, transversus abdominis), arms and hands(biceps brachii, brachialis, coracobrachialis, triceps brachii, Anconeus, pronator teres, flexor carpi radialis longus, palmaris longus, flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor digitorum superficialis). These contractions are often painful and can affect different muscle groups.
cramps can happen both during exercise or while rested and may involve a part of a muscle, the entire muscle, or several muscles that work synergistically.



what types of muscle cramps are there?

there are 4 types of muscle cramps: true cramps, tetany, contractures and dystonic cramps.

true cramps

true cramps are the most common type of skeletal muscle cramps. they mostly happen because of injury, intensive movement, fatigue or dehydration. True cramps involve part or all of a single muscle or a group of muscles that generally act synergistically. scientists believe true cramps are caused by hyperexcitability of the nerves that stimulate the muscles.
True cramps are mostly associated with the vigorous use of muscles and muscle fatigue (in sports or with new activities). Such cramps may come during the activity or later, sometimes many hours later. Likewise, muscle fatigue from sitting or lying for an extended period in an awkward position or any repetitive use can cause cramps. Older adults are at risk for cramps when performing vigorous or strenuous physical activities. a tired muscle loses more nutrients than it uses, so it’s not functioning at its peak.

tetany cramps

tetany is a cramp that involves the whole body, which then stimulate the muscles. This reaction causes spasms or cramps throughout the body. The name tetany is derived from the effect of the tetanus toxin on the nerves. However, the name is now commonly applied to muscle cramping from other conditions, such as low blood levels of calcium and magnesium. Low calcium and low magnesium, which increase the activity of nerve tissue nonspecifically, also can produce tetanic cramps. Often, such cramps are accompanied by evidence of hyperactivity of other nerve functions in addition to muscle stimulation. For instance, low blood calcium not only causes spasm of the muscles of the hands and wrists, but it can also cause a sensation of numbness and tingling around the mouth and other areas. Sometimes, tetanic cramps are indistinguishable from true cramps. The accompanying changes of sensation or other nerve functions that occurs with tetany may not be apparent because the cramp pain is masking or distracting from it.
it can cause muscle spasm, but spasm is usually more sustained (often with repetitive brief muscle twitches); it is usually bilateral and diffuse, but isolated carpopedal spasm may occur.

contracture cramps

A contracture is a scarring of the soft tissues that muscle movements normally affect. When a contracture is present, the tissue that is involved cannot move completely, whether the corresponding muscle is activated or relaxed. This is because the scarred tissue cannot move in response to muscle movements. This leads to a fixed body part with loss of full range of motion. The most common type of contracture occurs in the palm of the hand and affects the tendons that normally cause the fingers to close with gripping. Most commonly, this form of contracture affects the ring finger. This contracture is known as a Dupuytren’s contracture of the hand.

Dystonic cramps

although not a common type of cramp, in Dystonic cramps muscles that are not needed for the intended movement are stimulated to contract. Muscles that are affected by this type of cramping include those that ordinarily work in the opposite direction of the intended movement, and/or others that exaggerate the movement. Some dystonic cramps usually affect small groups of muscles (eyelids, jaws, neck, larynx, etc.). The hands and arms may be affected during the performance of repetitive activities such as those associated with handwriting (writer’s cramp), typing, playing certain musical instruments, and many others. Each of these repetitive activities may also produce true cramps from muscle fatigue.
it can cause muscle spasm, but symptoms are usually more sustained and recurrent and involve muscles other than those affected by typical leg cramps (eg, neck, hand, face, muscles throughout the body).

what is the symptom of muscle cramps?

A sudden and sharp pain which might feel like electricity lasting normally for a few seconds(but sometimes it might take even more than 30 minutes), is the main symptom of a muscle cramp. muscle cramps do not always happen to the entire muscle from insertion to origin, a bulging lump of muscle tissue beneath the skin is a cramp as well.

what causes muscle cramp?

Some cramps happen due to overtraining of a muscle, sometimes even in the middle of exercise. some cramps also happen when we overuse a muscle for long period in our daily activities. injuries can also cause cramps.
Low levels of electrolytes(calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate and phosphate). Electrolytes are minerals which carry an electrical charge. They are vital for health and survival. Electrolytes spark cell function throughout the body. They support hydration and help the body produce energy. Electrolytes are also responsible for stimulating muscle contractions, including those that keep your heart beating. Bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach, yogurt, and nuts are rich in those muscle-friendly minerals.
dehydration and Being active in hot temperatures can cause cramps as well. It may because fluid depletion causes nerve endings to become sensitized which triggers contractions in the space around the nerve and increases pressure on motor nerve endings. This depletion is exacerbated by hot conditions or exercising since you lose more fluid through sweat.
Low blood supply(either by a disease or because of exercise intensity) can also cause cramping.
sedentary lifestyle promotes cramps as well. Muscles were made to move, contract, and rest, so if you’re doing anything out of the ordinary–sitting at a conference all day, standing in line at an amusement park–you might experience some form of cramps like leg cramp. Standing for a prolonged period of time can understandably contribute to muscle fatigue, which in turn can cause cramping.
some medical condition such as spinal nerve compression, vascular disease, Addison’s disease, alcoholism, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, pregnancy, sarcoidosis, Multiple sclerosis, Osteoarthritis, kidney failure and hypothyroidism or low thyroid gland function may even promote cramps.
some medicines such as birth control pills, conjugated estrogens (used to treat menopause symptoms), naproxen, diuretics, osteoporosis drugs(like raloxifene and teriparatide), intravenous iron sucrose (used to treat anemia), pain meds like naproxen and pregabalin, some asthma medications and statins may even trigger muscle cramps.
Pregnancy increases a woman’s risk for leg cramps, especially during the second and third trimesters. This is most likely because the odds of magnesium and potassium deficiency are higher during pregnancy.

how to treat muscle cramps?

Stretch the affected muscle to alleviate the pain of muscle cramps. take anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen to help you with the suffering.
You can also apply a cold or hot compress onto the affected muscles at the first sign of a spasm to ease the pain of muscle cramps.
for calf, Sit up in bed, loop the blanket around your foot, and gently pull your toes toward you while you keep the knee straight.
for front of the lower leg, just stand up at the side of the bed, put your weight on your toes, and lift your heels; this gently stretches the cramped muscle.
For back cramps, try the child’s pose of yoga posture.
For hamstring cramps sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Slide your hands down your legs until you feel a burning sensation in the cramped muscle. Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly return to a sitting position.

Preventing muscle cramps

avoid or limit the exercises that strain your muscles and cause cramps, remember we train to tire the muscle, not annihilate it!
always Stretch or warm up before training, not only to prevent cramps and injuries, also to improve range of movement and increase strength and mind-muscle connection.
limit caffeine intake from foods like chocolate, Energy Drinks, Soda and tea. caffeine excretes minerals such as Electrolytes and also elevates hormones like cortisol which stresses body even more.
drink enough liquid to avoid dehydration and make sure you include minerals like Electrolytes as well especially if you are hyper active and do not eat at least 5 portion of vegetables daily(which you should!). for example you can absorb calcium and potassium naturally by drinking dairy and fruit juice(it is advised to eat whole fruits if possible so you take in good fibre as well and feed probiotics).
smoking has also been linked to cramps. the reason behind it is still unclear but it is believed to have something to do with endocrine system.