Muscular cramps: proposals for a new classification

Acta Neurol Scand. 2003 Mar;107(3):176-86. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0404.2003.01289.x.


Muscle cramps are involuntary, painful, sudden contractions of the skeletal muscles. They are present in normal subjects under certain conditions (during a strong voluntary contraction, sleep, sports, pregnancy) and in several pathologies such as myopathies, neuropathies, motoneuron diseases, metabolic disorders, hydroelectrolyte imbalances or endocrine pathologies. There has been considerable uncertainty in the literature regarding the classification and nomenclature of muscle cramps, both because the term "cramp" is used to indicate a variety of clinical features of muscles, leading to its use as an imprecise "umbrella" term that includes stiffness, contractures and local pain, and because the spectrum of the diseases in which it appears is wide. The purpose of the present study is to propose a simple classification to provide a framework to better recognize the full spectrum of phenomenology of muscle cramps.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Endocrine System Diseases / complications
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Muscle Cramp / classification*
  • Muscle Cramp / etiology
  • Muscle Cramp / pathology
  • Muscular Diseases / complications
  • Pain Measurement
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Vascular Diseases / complications
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance