Everyone, at some point, has experienced a muscle cramp. Whether it’s at night, after a workout or randomly throughout the day, a muscle cramp comes without warning. It can be located along the front or back of the thigh, hands, arms, calves, abdomen or foot. Muscle cramps can be very painful. Some lead to a knotted muscle and soreness that can last a couple days even after the cramp has gone away.
So, what causes a muscle cramp and how can you prevent it?
While there is not one specific cause for a muscle cramp, the following are known to contribute: dehydration, vigorous activity, magnesium and/or potassium deficiency, calcium deficiency in pregnant women, medications (diuretics, high blood pressure, asthma, Parkinson’s, cholesterol-statins) and pinched nerves.
There are a few ways to try to prevent or end a muscle cramp. First, when experiencing a muscle cramp, try to stretch that muscle. You can also perform light massage and apply heat to the area to help relax it. If the cramp was due to vigorous activity or dehydration, you need to replenish the fluids you lost. If a muscle cramp occurs without a known cause and you are on medications, make sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Some medications can increase the likelihood of muscle cramping. If cramping occurs throughout the night, a daily stretching routine could help reduce the frequency of cramps. Try to perform stretches before going to bed, when you get up to use the restroom during the night, and once or twice throughout the day. You can also make sure you are receiving enough vitamin D, E, Calcium and Magnesium in your diet.
Muscle cramps usually disappear on their own. If the cramping causes severe discomfort, is associated with increased leg swelling and muscle weakness, happens frequently or doesn’t improve with self-care techniques, please seek advice from your doctor.