Muscle cramps are extremely painful and unfortunately, they are also extremely common. It is estimated that almost everyone will experience a muscle cramp at some time on their life. So if you haven’t had one yet, don’t worry, because your time is likely coming.
A muscle cramp is an involuntary contraction of a group of muscles that can be extremely painful. Most muscle cramps occur in the legs, often in the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves or foot areas. The cause of muscle cramping is unknown; however, many medical professionals agree that muscle cramping is associated with electrolyte loss, dehydration, mineral deficiencies, muscle fatigue and/or poor conditioning habits. If you experience muscle cramps on a regular basis, you may want to look into each of these causes for a solution. Do you stretch before doing any physical activity? Do you take water with you to yoga class or on your morning jog? Although muscle cramps are generally associated with these causes, starting a new activity can also induce later muscle cramps, usually because your muscles aren’t used to moving in the way that you’ve asked them to.
If you’re having a muscle cramp, you’ll know it immediately. Whether a muscle cramp has awoken you in the middle of the night, or just happened as you stretched out your foot toward the television during your favorite soap; the sudden contraction of muscles will cause enough pain to draw your attention. Mild muscle cramps will often relax within a few seconds, however more severe muscle cramps can last up to fifteen minutes. To speed up the process of relaxing your muscles again, there are a few things that you can do. If your muscle cramp has occurred while you’re doing physical activity, take a break for a few minutes. Gently stretching and massaging the inflicted area will additionally help to ease the pain of the cramp and relax your contracted muscles. If the cramp occurs in a muscle that contracts and relaxes with a joint (i.e. your calf), putting your joint in a position that will stretch out the muscle will help to speed up your recovery time.
Muscle cramps can be prevented, and if you experience muscle cramps frequently, you should consider incorporating these tips into your lifestyle:
- Exercise Good Conditioning Habits: When exercising, it’s important to warm up your muscles by using proper static and dynamic stretching methods to prevent muscle cramps.
- Maintain Hydration: Make sure that you are hydrated before, during and after doing any physical activities.
- Stretch: If you experience frequent muscle cramps during the night, stretching before bed may be the solution your body needs for a good night sleep.
- Avoid Fatigue: You know your body’s limits better than anyone else does. If you think you’ve done too much, take a break.
Everyone experience muscle cramping at some point in their lives, however, if you experience severe muscle cramps on a regular basis, speak to your health-care provider as they may be able to provide you with a medication to prevent future muscle cramps.