You have likely experienced unpleasant pains called muscle cramps in the muscle of the legs and other areas. These pains can last for a few minutes while at other times, they go on their own. Muscle cramps are also called muscle spasms or Charley horse.
At Healthy health consult, we have compiled all you need to know about muscle cramps, what causes it and how to prevent or get rid of them.
Muscle cramps are sudden or involuntary muscle contraction that causes mild to severe pains and also immobility in the affected area for a short period. They occur in healthy individuals, and there is no gender difference with muscle cramps. It occurs more frequently with athletes or individuals who involve in endurance exercise or long-duration workouts.
Types of Muscle Cramps
Nocturnal Cramps – Which occurs during sleep without any clear cause.
Pathological Cramps – Which occurs among individuals with underlying diseases such as Diabetes, nerve disorders and metabolic disorders in the body.
Exercise-Induced Muscle Cramps – which occurs among individuals with a history of long duration running, irregular stretching habits or have a high body mass index.
What Causes Muscle Cramps
Muscle spasm is caused by sudden tightening or uncontrollable muscle contraction. When the muscles contract, the muscle fibres shorten, increasing tension in the muscle. But during cramp, the muscle remains tight and shortened instead of elongating and relaxed. That is why muscle spasms can occur in your legs at night while you are asleep. They also occur anywhere you have muscle such as feet, hands, abdomen or rib cage.
Here are factors that can cause an increased risk of muscle pains
• Low Electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals that play important roles in keeping you hydrated. They include:
When there’s a low level of these minerals, especially sodium and potassium, muscle pains occurs.
When you don’t drink enough water, the cells in your muscle won’t have the required fluid to properly contract and relax. Drinking water is the first step in fueling your muscle to function properly.
Overworking your muscle can lead to cramps during or after workouts. This is particularly common during hot season because you lose fluids through sweats contributing to dehydration and increasing the risk of cramps.
To avoid muscle pains, make sure you stretch before any physical exercise to properly alert your muscle for the exercise.
• Underlying Medical Condition
When you have medical issues or on medication;
Pregnancy – As a result of added pressure on the legs, and as well hormonal imbalance, can increase your risk of muscle cramps.
Medication – Steroid, diuretics, etc can increase your risk of muscle cramping.
Medical Conditions – Such as thyroid disease, kidney disease, can increase your risk of muscle cramping.
How to Prevent or Get Rid of Muscle Cramps
The pains of muscle cramps are spontaneous, which last for a few minutes or at other times go on their own. But you don’t have to wait until this excruciating pain goes away.
Here’s what you can do to ease the pains of Muscle Spasms
• Stay Hydrated
Getting in more fluid into your body is one key way to ease or get rid of muscle pains. When you get adequate fluid intake, this will reduce the amount of electrolyte that leaves the body through urine.
Sportsmen, Athletics and Individuals who engage in workouts should always take enough fluid or carry along with water cans during these exercises. To avoid muscle cramps during sleep, always take enough fluid before sleep.
Avoid or reduce intake of fluid containing alcohol or caffeine.
• Massage or Stretch the affected area of the body
Gently massage the area you experience the muscle pains to help the cramped muscle to relax.
If the Cramp occurs in your calf, stretch it to help relieve the contraction in the muscle. You can do this while sitting or standing.
• Get in More Nutrients
According to research, diets rich in Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium and Calcium; can help prevent and reduce muscle cramps.
Food such as watermelon, banana, orange, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and milk are a good source of these minerals. In pregnant women, magnesium can help to relieve muscle cramps. See surprising Health Benefits of Banana
• Apply Ice to the Affected Area
When muscle cramps occur during exercise, the first thing to do is to stop the activity. You can apply Ice to the areas. This can help the muscle relax and provide relief.
You can see your Medical Professional when the muscle pains continue to occur frequently, like almost on a daily basis. This can indicate an underlying health condition that requires attention.