Muscle cramps

Arch Intern Med. 1990 Mar;150(3):511-8.


Painful involuntary skeletal muscle contractions, or cramps, are common patient complaints and may be classified as examples of true cramp, tetany, contracture, or dystonia. The pathophysiologic and clinical features of each of these diagnoses are described. The approach to the patient with cramps should emphasize the history, physical examination, and, if the diagnosis is unclear, minimal routine laboratory data. Although many therapies have been proposed for ordinary cramps, the best evidence supports stretching exercises and quinine. Areas for future study of this common symptom are proposed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contracture / diagnosis
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons
  • Muscle Cramp* / drug therapy
  • Muscle Cramp* / etiology
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / complications
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Quinine / therapeutic use
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects
  • Tetany / complications
  • Thyroid Diseases / complications
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / complications


  • Quinine