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Muscle Cramps

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Updated December 04, 2003

Description: Cramps and spasms are sudden, usually painful contractions of one or more muscles. Spasms are brief in duration, while cramps last longer and are always painful.

Some causes related to cardiovascular disease: While many people with muscle spasms and cramps worry about cardiovascular disease being the cause, this is rarely the case. The one notable exception is intermittent claudication - an exertional, cramp-like leg pain (relieved within minutes by rest) caused by vascular insufficiency in the arteries supplying the legs.

Some causes related to other disorders: The great majority of muscle spasms and cramps are due to causes other than cardiovascular. The most common causes are electrolyte disorders (especially abnormalities in potassium and calcium levels), muscular disorders, or neurological disorders. The statin drugs can cause muscle pain and cramping - and if this happens the drug should usually be discontinued.

Significance: Usually, unless intermittent claudication is present, muscle cramps or spasms have little or no cardiovascular implications.

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