Overuse of a muscle, dehydration, muscle strain or simply holding a position for a prolonged period of time may result in a muscle cramp. In many cases, however, the exact cause of a muscle cramp isn't known.
Although most muscle cramps are harmless, some may be related to an underlying medical condition, such as:
Feb. 19, 2013
- Inadequate blood supply. Narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to your legs (arteriosclerosis of the extremities) can produce cramp-like pain in your legs and feet while you're exercising. These cramps usually go away soon after you stop exercising.
- Nerve compression. Compression of nerves in your spine (lumbar stenosis) also can produce cramp-like pain in your legs. The pain usually worsens the longer you walk. Walking in a slightly flexed position — such as you would employ when pushing a shopping cart ahead of you — may improve or delay the onset of your symptoms.
- Mineral depletion. Too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can contribute to leg cramps. Diuretics — medications often prescribed for high blood pressure — may also deplete these minerals.
- Muscle cramp. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00200. Accessed Dec. 19, 2012.
- Daroff RB, et al. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-0434-1..C2009-0-40427-6--TOP&isbn=978-1-4377-0434-1&uniqId=364938937-2. Accessed Dec. 19, 2012.
- Winkelman JW. Nocturnal leg cramps. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Dec. 19, 2012.
- Katzberg HD, et al. Assessment: Symptomatic treatment for muscle cramps (an evidence-based review). Neurology. 2010;74:691.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 21, 2012.