Muscle cramp

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Orthopedics, Physical medicine & rehab

Clinical Definition

A muscle cramp is the involuntary and acute contraction of a muscle. The contraction causes sudden pain for varyingdurations. Mineral depletion, nerve compression, heat and inadequate circulation can lead to muscle cramps. Muscle cramps can affect any muscle, but most commonly occur in the gastrocnemius, quadriceps and hamstrings. 

In Our Own Words

Muscle cramps are somewhat common and occur when any muscle in the body suddenly experiences involuntary tightening.


Although muscle cramps can be very painful, the condition is usually harmless. In most cases, muscle cramps do not require treatment and resolve in a short time. The most common spots for muscle cramps to occur are the calf muscle and the back and front of the thigh, but they also can occur along the ribcage and in hands, feet and arms.


Dehydration, excessive exercise and heat are potential causes. Experts recommend stretching and staying hydrated to avoid these cramps.

Relevant Conditions
Common Types
  • Charley horse
Side Effects
  • Pain in the muscle
  • Muscle twitching
Share this article
  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. “Muscle Cramp.” Accessed September 2013.
  • American Osteopathic Association. “Muscle Cramp – A Common Pain.” Accessed September 2013.
  • University of Rochester Medical Center. “All About Muscle Cramps.” Accessed September 2013.
Keep Reading

Investigate your bodys signs and signals.
Try Symptom Checker