What is a muscle cramp?

A muscle cramp happens when a muscle contracts suddenly and uncontrollably. These cramps, also called muscle spasms or charley horses, can occur in one or more muscles at a time. They can be painful, but they usually only last from a few seconds to 15 minutes.

Muscle cramps can be a symptom of many different medical issues. They are often associated with muscle strain, but they can also be a sign of medical conditions such as circulation problems and liver disease.

Muscle cramps can interfere with your daily activities. Because they often happen at night, they can affect your sleep. As a result, they may reduce your quality of life. But in most cases, muscle cramps are not serious.

Who is affected by muscle cramps?

Muscle cramps are very common. Anyone can develop one, but they happen more often in people who are:

  • Athletes.
  • Elderly.
  • Infants.
  • Overweight.
  • Pregnant.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/10/2019.


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