Muscle cramps are extremely common, and nearly everyone experiences a cramp at some time in their life. Cramps are commmon in adults and become increasingly frequent with aging. Any of the muscles that are under our voluntary control (skeletal muscles) can cramp. Muscle cramps are felt to be caused by excessively excited nerves that stimulate the muscles. This can occur particularly after injury to nerve and/or muscle; dehydration with low blood levels of calcium, magnesium, or potassium; from certain medications; and even at rest. The pain that is associated with muscle cramps that are caused by poor circulation to the legs that worsens with walking is referred to as claudication. Deficiencies of certain vitamins or minerals, including iron deficiency, thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5), and pyridoxine(B6), can also cause muscle cramps.Muscle cramps usually cause a temporary nuisance and typically resolve on their own without treatment. When muscle cramps continually recur, it is time to seek an evaluation by a physician. The primary treatment of muscle cramps involves methods to relax the affected muscle. This typically involves stretching, massage, and heat application. Other treatments are directed toward the underlying cause of the muscle cramps and can include rehydration, electrolyte repletion, hormone treatment, calcium supplementation. Most cramps can be stopped if the involved muscle can be stretched. If the cramp is associated with fluid loss, as is often the case with vigorous physical activity, fluid and electrolyte (especially sodium and potassium) replacement is essential. Medicines are not generally needed to treat an ordinary cramp that is active since most cramps subside spontaneously before enough medicine would be absorbed to even have an effect.
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