A muscle cramp is the result of the muscle forcibly and involuntarily contracting and not relaxing. When you’re using your voluntary muscles, such as those in your arms and legs, they alternately relax and contract as you move.
Muscles supporting your head, truck, and neck work in a synchronized manner in order to maintain your posture.
A muscle- or even just a few fibers of that muscle- contracting involuntarily is referred to as a spasm. If the spasm is sustained and forceful, it turns into a cramp. Muscle cramps typically result in a visible hardening of the muscle involved.
Muscle cramps typically last between a few seconds to 15 minutes, or even longer in some cases. It’s not uncommon for the muscle cramp to keep occurring until it finally resolves.
The muscle cramp could involve the entire muscle, part of a particular muscle, or even several muscles that work together. Additionally, the cramp could involve muscles that typically move body parts in opposite directions.
Muscle cramps are very common. In fact, nearly everyone will experience at least one muscle cramp- usually more- in the span of their lifetime.
As people get older, muscle cramps become more and more frequent. However, kids can also have muscle cramps.
Any voluntary muscle can cramp. In fact, cramps in the extremities, such as legs and feet are some of the most common. You should know that your involuntary muscles of your various organs could also cramp.
Causes of Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps are caused by a variety of factors, including: dehydration, muscle strain, overuse of a muscle, or even holding a position too long.
In most cases, though, the cause of a muscle cramp isn’t determinable. Though in most cases, the muscle cramp is harmless, some could be related to underlying medical conditions, such as the following:
Inadequate Blood Supply
You can develop cramp-like pain in your legs and feet while exercising due to a narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to your legs. These cramps will typically subside shortly after you stop exercising.
Compression of Your Nerves
Lumbar stenosis, or nerve compression in your spine, can result in cramps in your legs. This pain will get worse the more you walk. Your symptoms could be improved or delayed by walking in a slightly flexed position.
Depletion of Minerals
Not having enough calcium, magnesium, or potassium in your diet can cause leg cramps. Medications prescribed for blood pressure, such as diuretics, can also cause depletion of these vital minerals.
Treating Muscle Cramps
Since one of the causes of muscle cramps is depletion of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, it only stands to reason that you can treat- and get rid of- muscle cramps by restoring these vital minerals, right?
So, use the following simple tips to restore those minerals to your body and you will be able to regain the strength and ability of your muscles in no time at all.
– Start by placing a hot cloth on the affected muscle. This will help to increase the blood flow to the muscle and relax the cramp.
Place the cloth on for twenty minutes, then take it off for at least thirty minutes before reapplying. If you think it might help, consider alternating between heat and cold.
The heat will help to increase circulation and relax the muscle, while the cold will numb the pain and lower the inflammation.
– Take a warm shower or soak in a warm bath. To get some added relief, add some Epsom salts to your bath. The Epsom salts contain magnesium, which helps to your muscles to relax and eases the cramping.
– Try to find the center of your cramp and press on it using your thumb, a loosely clenched fist, or even the heel of your hand.
Hold the pressure for about 10 seconds, ease off for about 10 seconds, and then press again. You will most likely feel a bit of discomfort, but you should not have any excruciating pain.
After doing this several times, your cramp and the associated pain should begin to subside. This method is referred to as “approximation,” and is very effective in treating cramps.
– Stretch your leg muscles by standing on your toes for two to five minutes, then go for a five minute walk. This will warm up your leg muscles, restoring blood flow and relaxing the cramp.
– Make a massage oil with vegetable oil and wintergreen. Take one part wintergreen essential oil and mix it together with four parts vegetable oil and massage it on the cramp slowly. This combo is very effective for treating menstrual cramping.
More Tips for Relieving Muscle Cramps
– Restore calcium, magnesium, and potassium levels in your blood by eating more peaches, bananas, chocolates, seafood, cod liver, dried apricots, and cheddar cheese.
If you get some relief, but not control of your cramps by eating right, ask your physician about taking supplements to get you more of what you need.
– Before you go to bed, drink a glass of tonic water, which contains quinine, a popular leg cramp remedy. Research has proven that quinine is great for treating nocturnal leg cramps.
However, you should speak with your physician before taking quinine tablets, as they can cause vision problems and ringing in the ears, as well as some other side effects.
– In some cases, cramps are a result of dehydration. So, if you’re frequently experiencing leg cramps, drink more water.
However, you should try to drink less before and during your workouts because that can possibly result in more cramps. You should make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
– If you do get cramps during your workouts, try drinking at least 2 cups of water beforehand. Then, every 10- 20 minutes, take a break and drink 100-250 milliliters during your workout.
If you tend to sweat a lot, try drinking a sports drink to replace the electrolytes and sodium you lose with the sweat.
– To prevent nocturnal leg cramps, consider taking 250 milligrams of Vitamin E every day- studies show that Vitamin E actually improves blood flow.
– Make sure that you warm up before and cool down after working out if your cramps tend to occur during exercise. If you get a cramp while working out, stop to rest and try to stretch them out- don’t “power through” the pain.