Patients in many cases are worried about muscle cramps and the reason why they happen. Yet, there is more to a muscle cramp than just overuse of the muscle. Muscle cramps are caused when neighboring and encompassing muscles are underdeveloped.  This in turn causes other muscles to work harder to compensate for the weakness which can then lead to cramps. The meaning of muscle cramp is a “ sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles.”  

A cramp can be painful and can almost make it impossible to use the muscle that is being affected. Muscle cramps can usually subside by themselves and are rarely serious. The cause of muscle cramps are not always known and certain theories remain unreliable due to personal accounts rather than medical evidence. Muscle cramps can happen in any of the muscles of the body, but typically occur in the calf, quadriceps, hamstrings and arches of the foot.

Common Causes of Muscle Cramps:

  • Muscle overuse/overload
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dehydration
  • Strain of a muscle
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Neuromuscular causes
  • Exercise in hot/humid regions/climates
  • Excessive perspiration loss


Many of the prevention mechanisms that are frequently suggested have not been medically proven.  We have listed below some treatments that have more widespread evidence. 


  • Stretching the affected muscle
  • Fluid replacement
  • Exercise
  • Weight Loss
  • Cryotherapy, Heat Treatments
  • Posture training
  • Electric Nerve Stimulation
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Trigger Point Release
  • Compression garments


  • Adequate fluid consumption
    • Drinking at least 1.8 L of fluid per day
    • Drinking 1.0 L of water before any competition
  • Electrolyte balance
    • Maintaining a balanced diet
    • Multi-vitamins
  • Neuromuscular retraining
  • Use Ice, Heat, Warm Baths
  • Adjust exercise intensity
  • Improve your posture
  • Soft Tissue Treatment


  • Severe pain is noted
  • Poor blood supply
  • Nerve compression
  • Occurs very often and does not subside
  • Association with leg swelling and or skin irritation
  • Association with sudden muscle weakness
  • Mineral deficiencies such as calcium, potassium and magnesium

Don't let muscle cramps stop you from doing the activities you love.  Try some of the suggestions above and give it some time for it to work.  

If your symptoms persist, you may have a specific orthopedic condition that may need to be addressed.  We offer a Free Screen for our local population.  This process includes a brief examination performed by one of our licensed orthopedic physical therapists during which time we will take your history and test your strength, range of motion, and flexibility. If problems are detected that could benefit from physical therapy, we will advise you on your options. If there are lifestyle or exercise changes you can make on your own to improve your functionality, we will discuss and advise you on them with you.

Give Emery Physical Therapy a call today at 847-786-2014. 

Emery Physical Therapy has provided out-patient orthopedic and sports physical therapy for 18 years in Mt. Prospect (at Elmhurst Rd and Oakton). Learn more about What we Treat and How we Treat it...