Muscle Cramps

General Information

Although of unknown cause, muscle cramps are a frequent problem in elderly patients. Cramps can occur because of electrolyte abnormalities, but more commonly an idiopathic or unexplained variety of leg cramp is the problem in older patients. These muscle spasms occur at night and awaken an individual from a sound sleep. Muscle cramps, commonly called a charley horse, may occur at any age. They often follow exercise or prolonged posture in an unusual position. Although these cramps may have a similar effect, they differ in cause from the cramps that occur in the elderly.

Important Points in Treatment
One can relieve a leg cramp by standing and placing the involved muscle under some tension. The need to do this disturbs the night’s sleep.

Cramps can be prevented with a nightly dose of medication. It is most common to use quinine, although other medications may be effective. Chronic use of these medications can lead to side effects, and they should be used under the direction of your physician. Physical therapy may help, particularly if you do the prescribed exercises just before bedtime.

The best management for cramps that result from metabolic abnormalities and renal disease is treatment of the underlying problem.

Notify Our Office If ...

  • You get night cramps in the leg or foot.
  • You have frequent muscle cramps unrelated to exercise or tension.