Muscle Cramps (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Muscle cramps facts
- What are muscle cramps?
- What are the types and causes of muscle cramps?
- Do all muscle cramps fit into the above categories?
- Can medications cause muscle cramps?
- Can vitamin deficiencies cause muscle cramps?
- Can poor circulation cause muscle cramps?
- What are the symptoms of common muscle cramps? How are muscle cramps diagnosed?
- What is the treatment of skeletal muscle cramps?
- How can muscle cramps be prevented?
- Are there particular concerns for older adults?
- Are there medications to prevent muscle cramps?
- What is the prognosis of recurrent muscle cramps?
Are there medications to prevent muscle cramps?
In recent times, the only medication that has been widely used to prevent, and sometimes also to treat, cramps is quinine. Quinine has been used for years in the treatment of malaria. Quinine acts by decreasing the excitability of the muscles. It has also been shown to be effective in many, but not all, scientific studies. However, quinine also causes birth defects and miscarriages as well as serious side effects. It has also occasionally caused hypersensitivity reactions and a deficiency of platelets, which are the blood components responsible for clotting. Either of these reactions can be fatal. Quinine is also associated with a cluster of symptoms called cinchonism (nausea, vomiting, headaches, and deafness). Additionally, vision and heart irregularities can occur. Consequently, quinine tablets are not available in the United States. Quinine is available in grocery stores in tonic water. The U.S. FDA does not recommend or endorse the use of quinine to treat or prevent muscle cramps. Nevertheless, quinine is sometimes recommended as quinine water (tonic water) prior to bedtime to prevent night muscle cramps. Always consult your health care professional before taking quinine for cramps.
What is the prognosis of recurrent muscle cramps?
Although cramps can be a great nuisance, they are a benign condition. Their importance is limited to the discomfort and inconvenience they cause, or to the diseases associated with them. Careful attention to the preceding recommendations will greatly diminish the problem of cramps for most individuals. Those with persistent or severe muscle cramps should seek medical attention.
Previous contributing authors: Daniel Gornel, MD, MPH, and Rich Weil, MEd, CDE
Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.
"Nighttime Leg Cramps - Topic Overview." WebMD.com. Aug. 19, 2010. <http://www.webmd.com/
United States. Food and Drug Administration. "FDA Drug Safety Communication: New Risk Management Plan and Patient Information Guide for Qualapin (Quinine Sulfate)." July, 8, 2010. <http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/
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