What Causes Hand Cramps?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Hand cramps are a common event when the hands are also experiencing muscle spasms. Often very painful, hand cramping can be a sign of a number of different types of diseases, most of which can either be cured or at least managed. In some instances, the root cause for the cramping is nothing more than overworked hands that require some rest in order to allow the muscle tension to subside to normal levels.

A model of a human hand.
A model of a human hand.

People who engage in repetitive hand work are more likely to experience hand cramps from time to time. This includes people who work primarily on computers, typing for most of the workday. In addition, factory workers who use their hands for repetitive handling of materials on an assembly line may also find that the hands become sore and tend to cramp more often. Typically, some type of deep heating cream will help to relax the tense muscles and alleviate the cramping, especially when accompanied with a break in activity for a half hour or more.

Staying hydrated helps prevent cramps.
Staying hydrated helps prevent cramps.

Nutritional deficiencies can also be the root cause for hand cramps. In particular, a lack of calcium in the diet can cause tension in the hands and lead to cramping. In some people, lower levels of potassium and vitamin D will also lead to cramping that can be very painful. Typically, using nutritional supplements and making some adjustments in the diet to make sure the missing nutrients are consumed daily will make it possible to ease the cramps within a day or so.

Using a hand exerciser can help with hand cramps.
Using a hand exerciser can help with hand cramps.

Hand cramps can also be caused by low intakes of fluids. When this is the case, something as simple as making sure to drink more water and other fluids such as fruit juice or herbal teas will help to reverse the problem. Keep in mind that fluids containing caffeine may actually exacerbate the problem and are not usually recommended when there is a need to rehydrate the body after exercise and other strenuous activities.

A warming cream can help relax cramping hand muscles.
A warming cream can help relax cramping hand muscles.

Along with everyday issues that can lead to hand cramping, this type of pain can also be connected with a number of different health problems. People suffering from Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis, or who have some type of damage to the nervous system may find that cramping is part of the symptoms they commonly experience. An overactive or underactive thyroid may also be the reason behind the hand cramps. For this reason, continued problems with cramping should be reported to a physician, and tests ran to determine if there is an ongoing health issue that is manifesting in part with the cramps. By finding out exactly what is causing the hand cramps, proper treatments can be initiated and the individual can enjoy days that are relatively pain-free.

Repetitive activity can cause sore, stiff hands.
Repetitive activity can cause sore, stiff hands.
Hand cramping may be caused by a deficiency in potassium or vitamin D, which is naturally produced when skin is exposed to sunlight.
Hand cramping may be caused by a deficiency in potassium or vitamin D, which is naturally produced when skin is exposed to sunlight.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

Mor

@bythewell - I was always told that cracking my knuckles would lead to arthritis as well, but I never even get hand cramps unless I've been playing video games for too long.

Since I got a decent gaming keyboard it doesn't happen as much. I try to stretch them out every now and then as well, though, since the last thing I want is my hands cramping up permanently.

bythewell

I have found that I tend to get cramps in my hands in the morning when I go for a walk in the cold. I actually think it's got something to do with blood trying to get through constricted blood vessels or something like that. I'm only speculating though, because it's never been enough of a problem for me to actually go and get it checked up.

I was always worried, when I was younger, that it was a sign that I would get arthritis or something like that when I grow old, but it's never changed or become more painful or anything. It's annoying, but not unbearable, so I think it's just a quirk.

croydon

If you're finding that you need to increase your levels of potassium, eating a banana every day can really help. One of my friends had a disorder where she was vomiting fairly often and the doctor recommended bananas to increase her potassium levels because she was starting to get hand and foot cramps.

You can take supplements as well, but I think eating natural foods is easier on the stomach, particularly if it is difficult to keep food down in the first place.

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