Cramps in the hands


A cramp is defined as the contraction of the muscles in a certain area. As a rule, a cramp is only of short duration and must therefore be distinguished from a permanent muscle contracture and muscle spasm. Cramps in the hands are usually associated with pain and lead to temporary loss of function.

Cramps can vary in severity from person to person and have very different causes. Cramps can be divided into three different groups, with the so-called paraphysiological cramps being the most common. These occur in healthy people under certain conditions. In addition, there are symptomatic cramps that occur in the context of another underlying disease and idiopathic cramps that have no recognizable cause.


The causes of cramps in the hands can be very different. The most common cause of paraphysiological cramps is a disturbance of the mineral balance (electrolyte balance) of the body. In most cases, the minerals calcium and magnesium are responsible for the occurrence of muscle cramps.

A disturbance of the electrolyte balance can be triggered, for example, by heavy sweating, but also by alcohol consumption or increased physical activity. A magnesium deficiency promotes the development of muscle cramps, as it plays an important role in the development and termination of muscle contractions. Older people in particular are often affected by muscle cramps, as the mineral balance is affected by a lower fluid intake.

Pregnant women and women in the menopause also often show a changed mineral composition and may suffer from muscle cramps, but unlike symptomatic cramps, they are not associated with a disease. The symptomatic cramps can be triggered by different diseases. These include circulatory disorders, muscle diseases, neurological diseases and hormonal disorders, such as diabetes mellitus.

If the cramps occur together with a bluish coloration of the hands and pain, they can indicate the so-called Raynaud’s syndrome. This often occurs in connection with basic rheumatic diseases. Certain drugs can also trigger cramps in the hands.

These are mainly chemotherapeutics, blood pressure lowering drugs and hormonal contraceptives. Muscle cramps are a frequently described symptom when taking cortisone. The drug, which is rich in side effects, sometimes leads to severe effects on hormones and metabolic processes in the body.

Electrolyte shifts are also affected and relative nutrient and mineral deficiencies may occur. The occurrence of cramps indicates a deficiency of a substance involved in muscle function, which can be determined by medical blood tests. Cortisone is a hormone that is produced in the body in the adrenal cortex.

Cortisone has many important functions in the body. It is responsible for the physical response to stress and controls the blood sugar level to provide energy reserves in stressful situations. In addition, the hormone regulates the water and mineral balance and plays an important role in the inflammatory response.

Cortisone has an anti-inflammatory effect. This property is exploited in the therapeutic application of cortisone. The drug is mainly used in inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or overreactions of the body in the context of bronchial asthma.

If cortisone is taken as a drug over a longer period of time, the body throttles the body’s own production in the adrenal cortices in response. If the cortisone is now discontinued or at best slowly phased out, this can lead to a cortisone deficiency. Then various processes in the body can no longer be optimally regulated.

If this affects the water and mineral balance, it can lead to muscle cramps in the hands or other limbs. Since magnesium is primarily responsible for muscle function, the additional intake of magnesium can help to relieve cramps. If the cramps in the hands occur as part of an underlying rheumatic disease, they are often associated with Raynaud’s syndrome.

In this case, the hands are bluish in color and conspicuously cold, especially under stress and when cold. The cause of this is a cramping of the blood vessels in the hands and the resulting poor blood circulation. Many rheumatism patients suffer from cramps in their hands or even in their feet and legs.Taking magnesium can help relieve cramps and the pain associated with them.

Chemotherapy involves the use of very aggressive drugs that inhibit cell growth and lead to cell death. However, these drugs do not differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells. Therefore, in addition to the tumor cells, healthy cells can also be damaged during chemotherapy and depending on where they are located, the patient may experience symptoms.

Nerve cells are often damaged. These are mainly the small nerve endings, for example in the hands or feet. The symptoms can range from tingling and numbness to pain.

Cramps can also be a possible consequence. These symptoms usually subside of their own accord after completion of chemotherapy. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a rare neurological disease that can be accompanied by numerous symptoms throughout the body.

However, muscle cramps are a typical symptom of a progressive MS disease. In most cases, the disease occurs in relapses, progressing over the years and leaving more and more neurological damage. This results in nerve damage, which can lead to weakness, muscle cramps and in the long term to paralysis of the entire musculature of the body.

The so-called paraphysiological cramps often occur during increased exertion. In this case, increased sweating causes water and minerals to be excreted from the body and the balance is shifted. Since the minerals are also responsible for the contraction and subsequent relaxation of the muscles, muscle cramps can occur in this context.

Especially magnesium and calcium play a decisive role. Calcium is the trigger for the muscle contractions and magnesium ensures that the calcium can be quickly absorbed into the cells and then transported out again. So a lack of magnesium due to heavy sweating often results in muscle cramps.

Regular intake of magnesium supplements often helps when cramps in the hands occur under exertion. In the case of a magnesium deficiency, the body is not able to maintain the balance at the muscle cell, which is why the muscle cell can become excited and cramps apparently without cause. The most important measures after muscular efforts and the occurrence of cramps are physical rest, recovery, immobilization, massage and stretching of the affected muscles.

Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common causes of spontaneously occurring muscle cramps. It is not a dangerous disease, but merely a relatively increased magnesium requirement during muscular activity. Due to increased muscle work, the muscle cells consume and need more nutrients, electrolytes and minerals.

Even with a balanced diet and sufficient supply of magnesium, increased muscle activity can lead to a sudden magnesium deficiency. At the cellular level, even small triggers can cause hyperexcitability with a tendency to cramps. On the hands, even increased writing can be such an additional muscular strain and cause cramps.