Muscle cramps


Definition: Sudden involuntary contraction of a muscle or muscles, while generally temporary and non-damaging, they can cause mild-excruciating pain.

Almost everyone experiences muscle cramps at some point in their lives, you could be drifting off to sleep or out for long out for a walk when it happens: the muscles of your calf or foot suddenly become hard, tight and extremely painful.

Cramps are caused by muscle spasms, involuntary contractions of one or more muscles. In addition to the foot and calf muscles, other muscles prone to spasms include the front and back of the thigh, the hands, arms, abdomen and muscles along the ribcage.

What causes them, and what can you do to relieve them?

Muscle cramps can have many possible causes. They include:
Poor blood circulation in the legs
Overexertion of the calf muscles while exercising
Insufficient warm up or stretching before exercise
Exercising in the heat
Muscle fatigue
Deficiencies; magnesium potassium or calcium
Malfunctioning nerves, caused by a illness, spinal cord injury or nerve entrapment back
As a side effect of medication

What is the best way to make a leg cramp go away?

Usually instinct takes over when a leg cramp strikes, and you massage and stretch the sore muscle. This is a perfect instinct and often solves the problem. The best steps are:

Massage the cramped muscle
Gentle muscle stretching
If appropriate take a hot shower to warm and relax the muscle
If appropriate taking a bath with Epsom salts (the magnesium in Epsom salt promotes muscle relaxation).
In most cases self-care measures are sufficient for dealing with muscle cramps, which typically go away within minutes. However, if you experience them frequently or for no apparent reason, you should seek medical advice. They could signal a medical problem that requires treatment.

How can leg cramps be prevented?

Keep well hydrated. Although not fully understood dehydration and muscle cramping are related. Keeping well dehydrated especially during the colder months, and during and after exercise may be helpful.

Stretch regularly. Stretching can relax muscles, a good stretching routine can help relax cramp.

To prevent nighttime calf cramps, try not to sleep with your toes pointed. And don’t tuck in your sheets too tightly—this tends to bend your toes downward, activating cramps.

Diet – Eat more foods rich in vitamins , magnesium and calcium. Low levels of minerals known as electrolytes which include potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium can contribute to muscle cramps. You probably don’t need any more sodium in your diet, but you may need more of the others.
Good food sources of magnesium are whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts and beans. You can get potassium from most fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, oranges and cantaloupes. Dairy foods supply calcium. Magnesium is also available in topical applications, oil sprays are easily absorbed through the skin and as many people are deficient in this essential nutrient this is a easy way to address this.

When do I need to see a doctor?

If leg cramps become a persistent and recurring problem, you should see your GP, blood test may be useful to check the levels of potassium and other electrolytes are within normal range as electrolyte imbalances can cause cramping .

There are also muscle relaxing medications that can be prescribed if the muscle cramping particularly problematic, particularly at night. Finally, your medications and medical history should be reviewed to investigate for possible factors contributing to your leg cramps.


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