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Muscle Cramp

A cramp is a sudden, severe, and involuntary muscle contraction or over-shortening; can cause mild-to-excruciating pain, and a paralysis-like immobility. It resolves on its own over several seconds, minutes, or hours. Cramps may occur in a skeletal muscle or smooth muscle.

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Non‐drug therapies for lower limb muscle cramps

Lower limb muscle cramps are a common problem that can affect any person, but cramps mostly occur during exercise, at nighttime in older people, in pregnant women, in people with a neurological disease and during kidney dialysis. Non‐drug treatments are described as being effective for the treatment of muscle cramps. Non‐drug treatments include muscle stretching, physical exercise, avoidance of physical fatigue, massage, relaxation, heat therapy, weight loss, sensory nerve stimulation, ankle splints worn while sleeping, and changes to sleeping and sitting positions. We did not include invasive interventions such as surgery, acupuncture or dry‐needling in this review.

Magnesium for muscle cramps

Muscle cramps are common and can occur in a wide range of settings. Older adults and pregnant women commonly complain of leg cramps while they are resting, athletes can cramp when they are pushing the limits of their endurance, and some people develop muscle cramps as a symptom of other medical conditions. One potential treatment that is already being marketed to prevent muscle cramps is magnesium supplementation. Magnesium is a common mineral in our diets and extra oral supplements of this mineral are available either over the Internet or in health food stores and pharmacies (usually in the form of tablets or powders to be dissolved in water). We searched for all high quality published studies evaluating the effectiveness of magnesium to prevent muscle cramps and found four studies in older adults and three studies in pregnant women. There were no studies of people who cramp while exercising and no studies on people who cramp because of underlying medical problems. The four studies in older adults (a total of 322 participants including controls in cross‐over studies) collectively suggest that magnesium is unlikely to provide a meaningful benefit in reducing the frequency or severity of cramps in that population. We consider this evidence to be of moderate quality. In contrast, the three studies in pregnant women (202 participants) are collectively inconclusive since one study found benefit in reducing both cramp frequency and cramp pain while the other two found no benefit. More research on magnesium in pregnant women is needed; however, older adult cramp sufferers appear unlikely to benefit from this therapy. While we could not determine the rate of unwanted side effects, the study withdrawal rates and adverse event discussions suggest the treatment is well tolerated.

Quinine for muscle cramps

We reviewed the evidence about the effect of quinine on muscle cramps.

See all (38)

Summaries for consumers

Non‐drug therapies for lower limb muscle cramps

Lower limb muscle cramps are a common problem that can affect any person, but cramps mostly occur during exercise, at nighttime in older people, in pregnant women, in people with a neurological disease and during kidney dialysis. Non‐drug treatments are described as being effective for the treatment of muscle cramps. Non‐drug treatments include muscle stretching, physical exercise, avoidance of physical fatigue, massage, relaxation, heat therapy, weight loss, sensory nerve stimulation, ankle splints worn while sleeping, and changes to sleeping and sitting positions. We did not include invasive interventions such as surgery, acupuncture or dry‐needling in this review.

Magnesium for muscle cramps

Muscle cramps are common and can occur in a wide range of settings. Older adults and pregnant women commonly complain of leg cramps while they are resting, athletes can cramp when they are pushing the limits of their endurance, and some people develop muscle cramps as a symptom of other medical conditions. One potential treatment that is already being marketed to prevent muscle cramps is magnesium supplementation. Magnesium is a common mineral in our diets and extra oral supplements of this mineral are available either over the Internet or in health food stores and pharmacies (usually in the form of tablets or powders to be dissolved in water). We searched for all high quality published studies evaluating the effectiveness of magnesium to prevent muscle cramps and found four studies in older adults and three studies in pregnant women. There were no studies of people who cramp while exercising and no studies on people who cramp because of underlying medical problems. The four studies in older adults (a total of 322 participants including controls in cross‐over studies) collectively suggest that magnesium is unlikely to provide a meaningful benefit in reducing the frequency or severity of cramps in that population. We consider this evidence to be of moderate quality. In contrast, the three studies in pregnant women (202 participants) are collectively inconclusive since one study found benefit in reducing both cramp frequency and cramp pain while the other two found no benefit. More research on magnesium in pregnant women is needed; however, older adult cramp sufferers appear unlikely to benefit from this therapy. While we could not determine the rate of unwanted side effects, the study withdrawal rates and adverse event discussions suggest the treatment is well tolerated.

Quinine for muscle cramps

We reviewed the evidence about the effect of quinine on muscle cramps.

See all (23)

More about Muscle Cramp

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Other terms to know:
Skeletal Muscle, Smooth Muscle

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