An Evidence-Based Review of the Pathophysiology, Treatment, and Prevention of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps

J Athl Train. 2022 Jan 1;57(1):5-15. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-0696.20.


Exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMCs) are common and frustrating for athletes and the physically active. We critically appraised the EAMC literature to provide evidence-based treatment and prevention recommendations. Although the pathophysiology of EAMCs appears controversial, recent evidence suggests that EAMCs are due to a confluence of unique intrinsic and extrinsic factors rather than a singular cause. The treatment of acute EAMCs continues to include self-applied or clinician-guided gentle static stretching until symptoms abate. Once the painful EAMCs are alleviated, the clinician can continue treatment on the sidelines by focusing on patient-specific risk factors that may have contributed to the onset of EAMCs. For EAMC prevention, clinicians should obtain a thorough medical history and then identify any unique risk factors. Individualizing EAMC prevention strategies will likely be more effective than generalized advice (eg, drink more fluids).

Keywords: best practice; dehydration; electrolytes; fatigue; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Humans
  • Muscle Cramp* / etiology
  • Muscle Cramp* / prevention & control
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises*
  • Risk Factors