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Hand & Leg Cramping

author image Michael Bartlett
Michael Bartlett has been writing since 1996 and brings expertise in fitness, nutrition, and wellness to his online articles. Bartlett is a certified health teacher and personal trainer in upstate New York. He holds a Bachelor of Science in health science from Cortland College and an Associate of Science in physical education from Hudson Valley Community College.
Hand & Leg Cramping
A woman grabbing the back of her leg in pain. Photo Credit: lzf/iStock/Getty Images

Hand and leg cramps are painful, involuntary muscle contractions that often occur without warning. While most cramps are relatively harmless and pose no long-term danger, they may be a caused by a number of factors. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, cramps are often caused by muscle fatigue, dehydration, mineral deficiency and medicines. Reoccuring cramps in the hands may be an indication of an underlying neurological or cardiac condition, and you should have such symptoms checked by a medical professional.

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Muscle Fatigue

Extremely heavy lifting or exercising until muscle exhaustion may lead to cramping. Muscle contraction operates by releasing set amounts of sodium and potassium. When taxed with heavy lifting or endurance exercise, the muscles, lacking proper amounts of the minerals, cannot contract and relax, often staying in the contracted position, which causes a cramp. Muscles held static in a contracted position for prolonged periods of time are also likely to cramp. You may experience cramps in the hands when writing for long periods of time.


Dehydration, usually caused by exercise in hot conditions, can cause cramping in the hands, legs or other muscles. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons report that sweating depletes the muscles of sodium, potassium and chloride. Cramping occurs when these minerals are not replaced through proper hydration. Drinking water and sports drinks during exercise keep you hydrated as well as providing the required minerals. To avoid dehydration, and potential cramps, the American Council on Exercise recommends consuming between 90 and 125 oz. of fluid each day, more if you are engaging in strenuous exercise

Medical Conditions

Cramps, especially in the legs, may also be the result of a serious medical condition. According to, athlerosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, may limit blood flow to the muscles in the legs, resulting in cramping. Nerve damage, especially in the back and spine can also cause the muscles in the legs to cram. Leg cramps are also associated with kidney disease, anemia and diabetes.


Cramps usually do not last longer than 15 minutes. When cramps occur, the AAOS recommends stopping the activity and gently stretching the cramped area. Stretching seems to be most beneficial when held until the cramp releases. Alternating heat and cold to a cramped area may also help treat the affected area. You can prevent cramps by engaging in a daily stretching routine, taking a multivitamin and maintaining proper hydration

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