are painful, involuntary contractions
of muscles that often cause the inability
to use the affected set of muscles.
Leg cramps are the most common type
of muscle cramps. Other types of muscle
cramps are cramps in the abdomen and
lower back during menstruation and cramps
in the fingers, hands, and arms that
are observed in writers or professionals
who use their hands to perform their
work such as painters, gardeners, machine
operators, and sports persons.
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause
of cramps is not yet identified. Cramps
may occur because of abnormal processing
of electrolytes by the muscles of the
body. Electrolytes are essential elements
and chemical substances that are required
for the performance of even the most
basic bodily functions. Malfunction
of the nerves may also be a contributing
cause of cramps. Leg cramps are very
common, and almost everyone suffers
from an occasional leg cramp. However,
leg cramps occur most often in adolescents
and older adults.
Some other causes
that increase the chances of suffering
from cramps are overexertion of muscles
by exercising, prolonged sitting or
staying in the same position, inadequate
blood supply to muscles, injury to muscles,
dehydration, menstruation, pregnancy,
diabetes, low level of minerals such
as calcium, potassium, and magnesium
in the body, neuromuscular disorders
such as Parkinson’s disease, alcohol
abuse, excess body weight, and certain
medications, such as albuterol, niacin,
diuretics, some calcium channel blockers
and antipsychotic medications. In fact,
the most common cause of nocturnal leg
cramps is believed to be calcium deficiency.
Women who are postmenopausal and women
who are trying to lose weight or consume
a calcium-deficient diet are especially
vulnerable to developing cramps.
Most cases of
leg cramps occur during the night, and
these are called nocturnal leg cramps.
Individuals who exercise at night are
also more prone to suffering from leg
cramps are also common among athletes,
and more specifically, endurance athletes.
When the body is not properly conditioned
such as before a training session or
after a prolonged break from a workout,
cramps are experienced.