Cramp vs seize

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Via32

Senior Member
Hungarian
Hi,

If someone says they had been driving for an hour and their calf muscle seized up, what does it mean? Is it exactly the same as a cramp? Or is there any difference between having a cramp in a muscle and a muscle seizing up?
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think that machinery seizes up, and that this is a metaphor from that kind of usage: "The engine of my car seized up because I forgot to check the oil". I would also assume that it's a case of cramp here.
     

    Via32

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    That's an interesting point, Velisarius. The dictionaries do NOT give 'seize' as 'cramp'. Hence metaphor.
    Yes I couldn't find this meaning either in the dictionary.

    I think that machinery seizes up, and that this is a metaphor from that kind of usage: "The engine of my car seized up because I forgot to check the oil". I would also assume that it's a case of cramp here.
    ...and what does it mean, if an engine seizes up? Just stops working?
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I've never heard anybody talk about a muscle 'seizing up' when they mean 'went into a cramp'. I suppose a motor mechanically minded sort of person might choose that 'seizing up' term.
    To me, 'seizing up' means something different from 'cramping'. To me 'seizing up' means something like 'to stop working', which is not at all the same in my experience.
    A few years ago my right leg wouldn't do what it was supposed to when I wanted to walk upstairs: it 'stopped working', 'it seized up'. My leg was not obeying the messages sent to it by my brain and autonomic nervous system.
    This was nothing whatsoever like 'cramping'. Cramping hurts- 'seizing up' doesn't. 'Cramping' can be managed - 'seizing up' has to be tolerated. (Making generalisations, since this is not a medical forum)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I agree with what you say, Hermione. The only thing that made me think it must be cramp is that it was "the calf muscle" so it isn't like a knee, which can "seize up" in a similar way to a piece of machinery i.e. you may find that you can't bend the knee joint at all - it stops working.
    (Caveat: just my opinion as a layman.)
     

    Via32

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    I've never heard anybody talk about a muscle 'seizing up' when they mean 'went into a cramp'. I suppose a motor mechanically minded sort of person might choose that 'seizing up' term.
    To me, 'seizing up' means something different from 'cramping'. To me 'seizing up' means something like 'to stop working', which is not at all the same in my experience.
    A few years ago my right leg wouldn't do what it was supposed to when I wanted to walk upstairs: it 'stopped working', 'it seized up'. My leg was not obeying the messages sent to it by my brain and autonomic nervous system.
    This was nothing whatsoever like 'cramping'. Cramping hurts- 'seizing up' doesn't. 'Cramping' can be managed - 'seizing up' has to be tolerated. (Making generalisations, since this is not a medical forum)
    I heard the expression from a few people and from the context it seemed to me that they all meant something like a cramp. One of them for example said that his thigh seized up during a long run, it was very painful but he still finished the run, with the muscle remaining seized until the end. So, in my interpretation, it can't have meant that the muscle stopped working. Anyway, I probably should've asked him what he meant exactly!!

    Thank you all for your opinions!
     
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