Leg Muscle Cramps

Legs | Rheumatology | Leg Muscle Cramps (Symptom)


Leg cramps, sometimes called Charley horses, are sudden and uncontrollable muscle contractions or spasms. They can occur with exercise or while sleeping. The pain from muscle cramps can be intense, but can often be relieved with gentle stretching and massage.


Leg cramps can be due to muscle overuse, injury, or fatigue and may be related to decreased blood supply or irritation of the nerves leading to a muscle. Dehydration and electrolyte depletion can increase the likelihood of developing muscle cramps. Certain medications, such as diuretics and statins, can cause dehydration and muscle injury, respectively. Dehydration can also occur with excessive sweating, which may occur when exercising in hot weather.

Leg cramps are common occurrences; just about everybody will experience them at some point. Leg cramps can be related to nearly any activity involving the legs, but can even occur at rest. They are common when beginning or resuming a seasonal sport, after prolonged or intense activity, and in older individuals.

Leg cramps may be accompanied by firmness of the involved muscle, visible changes in the muscle shape, or twhiching of the muscle. Leg cramps may be brief or may last for several minutes. Leg cramps are usually benign, but they can occasionally be related to more serious medical conditions.