What are the other causes of muscle cramps?
Low potassium level in the blood could cause muscle cramps. However, this is more associated with muscle weakness.
Body fluid shifts
In his lifetime, if a person has drunk a lot of alcohol for some decades and if he was afflicted with hepatitis, the liver will be injured. When these injuries heal, scarring will be produced, and a lot of fibers will be formed in the liver. This medical condition is known as cirrhosis of the liver.
When the liver is cirrhotic, or filled with scarring and fibers, the flow of blood coming from the (1) hepatic artery and (2) hepatic portal vein through the liver is obstructed. Consequently, fluids (represented by the olive green representations in Figure 1) seeping out from both the hepatic artery and hepatic portal vein will spill in the abdominal cavity, ultimately producing a collection of fluid consisting of proteins, glucose, and electrolytes, like sodium and potassium. This movement of fluid from the blood vessels into the abdominal cavity is called body fluid shift.
When there is body fluid shift, not only fluid distribution is disturbed but also the distribution of electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. When potassium is taken out from the circulation, this could produce muscle cramps!
Alteration in the distribution of potassium could also take place during dialysis and in some cases of kidney failure. Thus, muscle cramps could also take place in these situations.
Intake of some medications
Intake of some medications could cause muscle cramps. Foremost is the diuretic called furosemide, whose brand name is Lasix, which could effect vigorous removal of body fluids, leading to depletion of some electrolytes, like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. When these electrolytes are significantly removed from the circulation and tissues, they could cause muscle cramps.
Other medications that could cause muscle cramps are the following: donepezil for Alzheimer’s disease, neostigmine for myasthenia gravis, raloxifene for osteoporosis, tolcapone for Pankinson’s disease, nifedipine for high blood pressure, terbutaline for asthma, and lovastatin for lowering cholesterol.
Some vitamin deficiencies may lead to muscle cramps. These are deficiencies in thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid, and pyridoxine (B6).Thus, for individuals who go to the gym regularly, and also for some of those who do not, a daily intake of vitamin B complex tablet is recommended, containing around 100 mg of thiamine, 5 mg of pyridoxine, 5 mg of pantothenic acid and 50 mcg of cyanocobalamine.
How can we treat muscle cramps?
Stretching the muscle
Stretching the involved muscle can be used to stop the cramp. For some cramps of the feet and legs, the concerned person can stand up then walk around. For a calf muscle cramp, there are two ways of treating it: (1) the person can stand around 2 to 2.5 feet from the wall (more if the person is taller) and lean by placing the forearms against it with the knees and back straight and the heels in contact with the ground or floor, or (2) while still lying down, the ankle is flexed by pulling the toes up toward the head with the leg extended as straight as possible. For a writer’s cramp, the hand will be pressed against the wall with the palm in contact with it. This will stretch the flexor muscles of the fingers, finally stopping the cramp.