The influence of muscular lengthening on cramps

Ann Neurol. 1993 Feb;33(2):176-80. doi: 10.1002/ana.410330207.


Muscle cramps induced by voluntary contraction and by electrical stimulation of the peripheral nerve were studied electrophysiologically in 10 healthy subjects. The aim was to verify that cramps can be evoked by electrical stimulation of peripheral nerve and to clarify the physiological mechanism responsible by analyzing the effect of muscular stretching on cramps. Our results showed: (1) Cramps can be induced even after peripheral nerve block by electrical stimulation distal to the block. (2) No cramps were recorded during or following maximal voluntary contraction without muscular shortening, while 7 of 10 subjects showed a true cramp following maximal effort with shortening of the muscle. (3) Muscle stretching caused a sudden interruption of cramps induced by either voluntary contraction or electrical stimulation of the peripheral nerve, even after the induction of nerve block. (4) The lengthening state of the muscle can strongly influence the possibility of evoking cramps by electrical stimulation of nerve. Our study verifies the experimental model proposed by Lambert in 1969, emphasizing the relevance of frequency of stimulation and confirming the hypothesis that cramps are of peripheral origin. The effects of muscle stretch and lengthening on cramp interruption and development also have a peripheral mechanism.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle Cramp / etiology
  • Muscle Cramp / physiopathology*
  • Muscle Cramp / therapy
  • Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Physical Stimulation