Cramps are sudden, involuntary, painful muscle contractions. Their pathophysiology remains poorly understood. One hypothesis is that cramps result from changes in motor neuron excitability (central origin). Another hypothesis is that they result from spontaneous discharges of the motor nerves (peripheral origin). The central origin hypothesis has been supported by recent experimental findings, whose implications for understanding cramp contractions are discussed.
Muscle cramps have a neurogenic nature. Recent experimental findings providing new insights into cramp pathophysiology are presented.
1Division of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Metabolism, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Turin, Turin, Italy; 2Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Maribor, Maribor, Slovenia; 3Laboratory for Engineering of the Neuromuscular System, Department of Electronics and Telecommunications, Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy; and 4Department of Neurorehabilitation Engineering, Bernstein Focus Neurotechnology Göttingen, Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, University Medical Center Göttingen, Georg-August University, Göttingen, Germany.
Address for correspondence: Marco Alessandro Minetto, M.D., Ph.D., Division of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Metabolism, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Turin, Molinette Hospital, Corso Dogliotti 14, 10126 Torino, Italy (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Accepted for publication: August 20, 2012.
Associate Editor: Roger M. Enoka, Ph.D.