By definition, muscle spasm (spasm) is an involuntary and inevitable permanent contraction of a muscle, or muscle group, which is associated with severe pain and restricted mobility of the cramping body part.

What are muscle spasms?

Muscle cramps can arise spontaneously at rest, or after intense muscular effort. The most commonly affected are the calf, the thigh, or the hand muscles.

Muscle cramps can arise spontaneously at rest, or after intense muscular effort. Most commonly affected are the calf, the thigh, or the hand muscles, with the most common causes include a lack of magnesium in the body, or a calcium deficiency in the blood.

Among the tetany, which is triggered by the said calcium deficiency in the blood, it is such a spasmodic disorder of the motor system, which can manifest itself in a tingling sensation (as a sign of an excitability of the nerves and muscles), or in a painful cramp. In a muscle spasm, the human body lacks sufficient magnesium to counteract the unwanted contraction.


Muscle cramps are usually caused by overexertion, as is the case for example in sports, or magnesium deficiency. In addition, due to sports reasons, a lack of salt or a general lack of fluids can lead to muscle spasm.

In addition, as possible causes, wearing too tight stockings and / or shoes, the presence of varicose veins, cold, or a potassium deficiency (for example, caused by excessive sweating).

Due to illness, muscle cramps can occur in diabetic patients, in people with circulatory disorders, or in the presence of a nervous disease.

At present, the influence of alcohol and the use of certain medications as triggers are scientifically debated.

Diseases with this symptom

  • magnesium deficiency
  • Diabetes insipidus
  • mineral deficiency
  • kidney failure
  • calcium deficiency
  • abdominal influenza
  • Thyroid function under
  • myopathy
  • potassium deficiency
  • Crohn's disease
  • polyneuropathy
  • Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome


In case of magnesium deficiency, the potassium transport back to the cell is interrupted. However, this is important to stop the electrical excitation and the influx of calcium ions into the smallest unit of muscle, the sarcomere. If this does not run smoothly, a muscle spasm, so a continuous muscle contraction, arise.

This manifests itself in a sudden, violent muscle pain. This occasionally leads to a feeling of numbness and a limited mobility in the cramped body part, as well as hardening and possible swelling of the muscle.

Usually, however, this goes quickly over again. The triggered pain can outlast the spasm, however. During sports, the muscles of the legs and lower legs and the muscles of the hand are most stressed when writing. Due to this, muscle cramps occur most frequently (the same applies to unsportsmanlike persons).

When should you go to the doctor?

Muscle cramps, which are due to a short-term magnesium deficiency or diarrheal disease, are usually not in need of treatment. Often the cramps manifest in the calf muscles, occasionally in the feet or the lateral back muscles. If the muscle cramps occur only occasionally, the affected person does not have to go to the doctor.

It is different if the patient suffers frequently from muscle cramps. If he is active in sports, the muscle cramps may indicate incorrect exercise or inadequate warm-up exercises of the muscles. To clarify the cause of the cramps, a visit to the sports specialist makes sense. This can also ask questions about food habits. Muscle cramps can occur in athletes and older people as a result of dehydration and heavy sweating. A temporary lack of liquid and mineral salts can easily be compensated by yourself.

The doctor's visit is advisable if suffering from frequent muscle cramps causes suffering. The affected should pay attention to concomitant symptoms. For headache and back pain, night sweats or a weakness in the whole muscular system, the doctor's visit is advised. The same applies if there is movement or movement insecurity or exhaustion and fatigue. Because muscle spasms can be a concomitant of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or kidney disease, they are a serious symptom. They may indicate an unrecognized condition, such as an arterial circulatory disorder.

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Treatment & Therapy

However, as the causes of muscle cramps have not yet been fully elucidated by science, and several factors are likely to come together in a muscle spasm, no causal treatment is currently available. It can only treat the symptoms and prevent the muscle spasm.

When a muscle spasm occurs, the exercise should be stopped immediately and the muscle either stretched or actively relaxed. Just as effective are light massages, as well as the rubbing in of certain ointments and creams. Only after dissolution of the spasm should be continued with the movement.

In sports, care should be taken to ensure adequate hydration after a spasm. Should it be the case that more muscle spasms occur more often, a doctor must be consulted to clarify the cause. If necessary, this will prescribe physiotherapy, or in rare cases a therapy with muscle-loosening and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Outlook & Forecast

Muscle cramps in the legs or back can feel dramatic. But they are often due to a current shortage or excess consumption of magnesium. Before and after exercise, dehydration or high stress, it may be useful to preventively add magnesium and calcium. In the acute case, there is the prospect of quickly getting rid of the muscle spasms through a quick mineral supply.

The prognosis is significantly worse, however, if the muscle cramps are the effects of a serious illness. For example, an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or a cerebral seizure can be considered. Even with hormonal disorders and metabolic diseases such as diabetes can result in muscle cramps as a consequence. Anyone taking laxatives or dehydrating agents (diuretics), medicines for high blood pressure or similar preparations should also preventively improve mineral supply.

The prognosis for muscle cramps in detail is always dependent on the underlying disease. A balanced electrolyte balance plays a central role in the prevention of muscle spasms. If muscle cramps occur despite a regular intake of electrolytes or minerals, the person affected should think of an internal or neurological disease. In this case, it is probably not idiopathic or paraphysiological muscle cramps, but probably symptomatic. This worsens the prognosis for muscle cramps at least as long as the underlying disease remains untreated.


Home remedies ↵ for cramps A muscle spasm can be prevented by a sufficient supply of fluids and magnesium. Magnesium can be taken in the form of tablets, which can be purchased over-the-counter in online pharmacies and drugstores, or with food. Magnesium rich foods include nuts, spinach and whole grains.

Before the sport should also be warmed up sufficiently. Circulation-promoting measures such as gymnastics and alternating baths can also have a positive effect.

Furthermore, it is advisable to reduce the daily consumption of alcohol and coffee and avoid overloading, especially in the initial phase of a workout. In sports, sufficient stretching after exercise has a regenerating effect.

In summary, it can be said that a muscle spasm is the unintentional contraction of a particular muscle, which is associated with sometimes severe pain and immobility of the body part. This can be well prevented on its own and requires only in the rarest cases of medical treatment, or drug therapy.

You can do that yourself

Muscle cramps do not always require a visit to a doctor. In acute cramps often helps already a warm bath or a hot shower. A hot washcloth performs a similar effect and stimulates blood circulation, which eases the spasm. Also, a massage can bring the desired relief in an acute muscle spasm.

Severe cramps can be alleviated by pressing the spasm point two to three times for about ten seconds with your thumb. Contraception is an effective remedy for mild cramps in the calves and thighs. In case of severe cramps, it is on the other hand to spare the muscles for a few hours. It is also recommended to drink a lot, because often is the cause of a muscle spasm in a fluid or mineral deficiency.

The consumption of whole grains, nuts or vegetables supplies the muscles with the necessary magnesium and potassium. In addition, alternative remedies help. Oil blends of wintergreen oil and vegetable oil increase blood circulation and relieve cramps in the calves. Cramps in the legs can be alleviated with Toni water. Chronic or particularly severe muscle cramps that can not be alleviated by the above measures should be discussed with a physician.

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