Muscle cramps can be painful and last from a few seconds to a few minutes. They are involuntary contractions of a single muscle or a muscle group that come on suddenly. Muscle cramps can occur during or after intense exercise but can also occur during rest. The most common muscles that are affected include the things, calves, feet, hands, arms, and abdomen. Some also get muscle cramps at night during sleep which tends to affect the calf and foot muscles.
Many people experience muscle cramps but there are certain conditions that have been shown to increase the risk and severity of cramps. Cramps can be caused by:
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Poor posture and tight muscles
- Muscle fatigue
- Certain medications
- Medical conditions like diabetes, liver disease, and thyroid imbalances
- Peripheral neurological disorders
- Hormonal imbalances
When it comes to muscle cramps, no lab tests are routinely done to evaluate muscle cramps on their own. A health history and physical examination can help guide what is causing the muscle cramps. There is also no medication that is recommended to instantly relieve muscle spasms so prevention is key.
Prevention of Muscle Cramps
Stretching the affected muscle can reduce the cramping as it counteracts the continuous muscle contraction. Static stretching allows the nerve fibers to reset and prevent overstimulation. Stretching is one of the techniques that can be performed when a muscle cramp is happening but it is also necessary to stretch to prevent them from occurring.
See a practitioner that can help with your posture, biomechanics, and injuries to ensure you are moving properly and efficiently to not overstimulate the nerves.
Electrolytes, including magnesium and potassium, play an important role in nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. An imbalance can cause continuous contraction without proper muscle relaxation.
Drink enough water for your body size and exercise intensity.
Inquire about any medication you are on to see if there is a way to reduce muscle cramps if they are a side effect.
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