Sports Medicine: Muscle Cramps

A Spine Center physician reviews an X-ray.

Muscle Cramps

What are muscle cramps?

A cramp is a sudden contraction of one or more of your muscles. Most people have experienced a cramp in the form of a charley horse, the common name for a cramp in your calf. Cramps can involve a single muscle or a group of muscles that work together.


Sudden pain in the affected muscle is the most obvious symptom. On visual inspection, the area may be bulging or lumpy, and the muscle may feel very hard.


Cramps can result from a lot of different reasons. Over-exercising, especially in the heat, can bring on cramps; heat cramps are closely related to another cause: dehydration. And a lack of certain electrolytes, such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium, can cause cramps — and this deficit can be brought on by dehydration as well. Poor blood circulation, which can result in your muscles having a lack of all these materials to work with, can also cause cramps, especially in your legs. (Your leg veins, which carry away the exhausted blood from your muscles, have to fight against gravity when they work since they need to travel in an upward direction to your heart.)

Additionally, conditions like spinal stenosis can cause your legs to feel as if they have a cramp. A previous injury to the affected area may also cause a kind of protective cramp; the body is causing the area to be immobile to keep it from further damage. And certain medicines can cause cramps, so be sure to bring a list of the ones you take with you to your doctor’s appointment.


“After a physical evaluation is given and a medical history is taking to rule out other conditions,” says Stephen Koss, MD, an orthopedic physician at OINJ, “your doctor will be able to start you on treatment plan for recurring cramps. Generally, this involves stretching, exercise, proper hydration, and electrolyte balance.”

“Warming up before you work out or participate in a sport is key to preventing cramps,” says Christopher Castro, DO, a physiatrist at OINJ. “If you do get a cramp, massaging the area can help. Simple stretches away from the cramp will help the pain. And a warm bath with Epsom salts can be effective.”

Why Choose The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey

At OINJ, board certified physicians work collaboratively to come up with the best solutions for you. Using innovative techniques and the most up-to-date research and technologies available, our specialists have one goal: to get you back into the best of orthopedic health. We work with each other, as well as with other partners in your care, to develop the treatment plan that will work for you.

Our multiple office locations that can be reached by one centralized call center make it easy to schedule and get to appointments, and we treat patients of all ages with injuries and orthopedic conditions of all kinds.

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Featured Physicians

Christopher Castro, DO – Physiatrist

As a physiatrist, Dr. Castro has expertise in non-operative spinal care, interventional spine procedures, pain management, occupational medicine, and electrodiagnostic studies. Board certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Dr. Castro incorporates medications, therapies, injections and lifestyle changes to help his patients improve function.

Dr. Castro completed an advanced fellowship at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ); held his residency at the Sinai Hospital Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation program in Baltimore; and received his medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. His undergraduate degree in chemistry was earned at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Stephen Koss, MD – Orthopedic Physician

Board certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, Dr. Koss has expertise in arthroscopic surgery, joint replacement, ligament reconstruction, rotator cuff repair, and knee meniscus surgery. In addition to his position at OINJ, Dr. Koss is an attending physician at Newton Medical Center, where he previously served as chief of surgery.

Dr. Koss completed his fellowship in sports medicine at the New England Medical Center, Tufts University Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in Boston. He did both his residency and his internship at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester. He received his medical degree from the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and earned his undergraduate degree from Pomona College in Claremont, California.

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The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey is a premier multi-disciplinary center offering complete orthopedic care, rehabilitation and pain management services to patients of all ages and activity levels using a customized treatment plan to fit individual needs.

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