8th June 2023

Cramps, what do they hide?

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Cramp is a common symptom that can be triggered by various events, from pregnancy to dehydration for example.

However, there are diffuse cramps, as opposed to the localized cramp, which can reveal a real underlying pathology.

Localized cramp is benign

La cramp can be defined as a contraction sudden, painful, involuntary and transient muscle of part or all of a muscle. It usually lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. The cramps mainly affect the calf and give way to muscle stretching.

They occur during sports efforts, but sometimes at rest and often at night.

Most often, they are localized and isolated, with no relation to a disease.

What are the causes of cramps?

The events likely to trigger cramps are very diverse:

  • The pregnancy.
  • The pill.
  • Tiredness.
  • Sporting activity (especially swimming).
  • Dehydration with salt loss (intense sweating, heatstroke, vomiting, diarrhea).
  • Cold.
  • Some positions.
  • Renal dialysis.
  • Certain medications, in particular anti-acetylcholines indicated in the treatment of myasthenia gravis (muscle exhaustion), and those which modify the balance of sodium and potassium ions (laxatives, diuretics, corticosteroids), as well as statins against cholesterol.
  • The abuse of stimulants (coffee, tea).
  • Drug addiction…

Diffuse cramps

Certain cramps, when diffuse and associated with other signs, may nevertheless indicate a serious neuromuscular disorder or pain in the neck. fibers muscular.

It is then necessary to carry out a diagnostic precise, which may require additional examinations, such as the electromyogram. After eliminating all the causes mentioned above, we can look for an endocrine cause, in particular involving the thyroid, then a motor neuron disease, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for example, but there are many others (spinal amyotrophies, Kennedy syndrome, postpolio syndrome ??).

In the event of cramps occurring exclusively during exertion and leading to exertion intolerance, the diagnosis is directed towards metabolic myopathy (abnormal levels of lactic acid, accumulation of glycogen in the muscle, etc.).

In conclusion, the classic cramp does not affect and is explained simply by various events of daily life.

On the other hand, diffuse, non-localized cramps should lead to a consultation in order to find the exact cause. They can reveal a serious underlying disease.

Updated by Dr. Philippe Presles le 02/09/2013
Initially created by Dr. Philippe Presles the 05 / 11 / 2007

Sources: Bichat Interviews, Eymard B. Communication, 10 September 2007.

source: e health

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