Everyone has experienced a muscle cramp at least once in their life. Muscle cramps can be a sudden and crippling feeling of pain as your muscles begin to spasm out of your control. This involuntary contraction of muscles can be very brief, lasting only a few seconds, or they can last for minutes. They most often occur in the legs in the calves or hamstrings, or they may occur in the feet or hands. Regardless of their longevity or location, they can be quite painful when they occur. So what causes muscles to cramp and spasm?
Some of the most common reasons for muscles cramps are:
Dehydration – When there is a depletion of fluids in your body, the muscles start to contract in restriction to the lack of fluids, often leading to cramps and sore muscles.
Mineral Deficiency – Maintaining a balanced level of electrolytes in your system can help prevent your muscles from cramping. When you are lacking in potassium, calcium, sodium, or magnesium, your muscles are more likely to cramp up when you are deficient in these nutrients.
Overuse & Fatigue – Intense or prolong exercising can cause injuries and cramping due to the overuse of the muscles. The muscles can get dehydrated and lose excessive amounts of minerals and other nutrients that they need to function at their peak. Overuse and exertion can also lead to muscle fatigue. Being mentally and physically tired can lead to an increase risk of muscles cramping up. This can even happen after you stop doing activities and are resting, such as night cramps.
Prolong Holding - Whether you are sitting or standing for extended lengths of time or gripping your hands tightly for a long time, holding one position for any prolong amount of time can cause the muscles to start to cramp. The constant contraction of the muscles with no break can cause the involuntary spasms.
So, you get a muscle cramp, what do you do to help alleviate the pain and calm the muscles back down?
Stop doing any activity that may have caused the cramping
Stretch the contracted muscle out.
Massage the tight muscles to promote relaxation.
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water.
Check your amount of consumption of electrolytes and add more potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium as needed. (Check with your doctor to see you have a deficiency in all or some of these if cramping occurs on a frequent and regular basis).
If from prolong holding, move muscles and shake them out.
You may also add heat or cold to the cramping muscles to help relax and ease the tensing muscles.
In some cases, self-care is not enough. If you have excessive amounts of cramping, they occur regularly and frequently, or often last for prolonged amounts of time, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. You could have a more serious underlying health issue that needs to be addressed.