Cramp Vs. Pain

Difference Between Cramp And Pain

Cramp, an involutary, sustained muscular contraction associated with sharp pain in the involved muscles. Cramps may occur in almost any muscle of the body, and they may be due to a variety of causes.

Causes

A familiar cause of cramps is overexertion, as encountered in athletic activities such as running or swimming. This type of cramp often occurs in the legs and is accompanied by severe pain and temporary paralysis of the affected muscles. Because of electrolyte imbalances that occur during fatigued conditions, the nerves supplying the muscles transmit a rapid series of disordered stimuli, and the muscles respond with an abnormally sustained contraction.

Chronic strain is another common cause of cramps. These cramps are often referred to as professional cramps because they sometimes affect writers, typists, artists, tailors, and other people whose occupations require them to constantly use particular groups of muscles. Under this constant strain the muscles become uncoordinated, and when the person attempts to work his movements may be spasmodic, and the affected limb may tremble slightly. Professional cramps are also sometimes known as occupational neuroses because the affected muscles may function perfectly well in performing tasks not associated with work.

Menstrual cramps are associated with contractions of the uterus muscle. These cramps often occur just prior to the onset of menstruation, and they may last from several hours to a day or two. Menstrual cramps occur most frequently in young women, and they often do not recur after childbirth.

Pain

Pain, an unpleasant feeling experienced when body tissues are damaged or stressed. In spite of many years of research by both laboratory and clinical scientists, pain control remains one of the major problems in medical and dental practice. Chronic pain is a problem of epidemic proportions, and pain is foremost among the difficulties faced by physicians and other health-care professionals managing patients with advanced cancer and treating burn victims.

Physiology and Anatomy

Pain begins with processes that take place in the end organs of sensory nerves when body tissues are damaged or subjected to stress. Certain types of small nerve fibers that have free endings rather than specialized end-organ structures appear to be the receptors for tissue injury. Chemical substances known as prostaglandins are released when tissues are injured or inflamed. They sensitize the free nerve endings so that even minor stimulation by an injury can give rise to pain.

 

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