Muscle cramps are sudden involuntary painful contractions of muscles. It can affect any muscle fiber or groups. Its common location is in calf muscles, thigh muscles (back and front). It usually appears in the midnight that may disturb your sleep. It appears after a strenuous exercise, loss of electrolytes in dehydration, kidney failure, injury and many more. It causes the appearance of hard lumps in the muscle tissue just under the skin with a cramping pain that can be intolerable for few seconds to few minutes. Massaging, stretching the muscles, cold or heat therapies or a combination of both can relieve the condition.
Does A Hot Bath Help Muscle Cramps?
Bathing in hot water can be helpful to get relief from muscle cramps. The temperature of the water should range from 90 degrees to 104 degrees. The hot bath has its own positive effects on the muscles-
- It improves the blood circulation to the muscles.
- It reduces the tightening of the muscles and relaxes them.
- It also reduces the cramping pain.(1)
It is advised to soak the affected extremities in hot water for 15 to 30 minutes to induce relaxation of the muscle. It is also advised to massage the affected area following soaking. It can reduce cramping pain to a great extent.
In case, you have diabetes or problems related to poor circulation, you should consult your physician before a hot bath or heat soaks. Heat in the form of bath or soak should be avoided for at least 48 hours following an injury as it accelerates blood circulation to the affected area that may result in swelling.
After an injury, the cold application is most effective within 48 hours that can reduce pain and intensity of the cramps. An article published in a Journal of Athletic Training states that cold application or combination of heat and cold therapies are more beneficial than heat therapy alone to reduce the cramps developed in the muscles.(2)
Muscle cramps are a common entity in our life. It appears when the muscle contracts or tightens involuntarily for a long time and cannot relax. It commonly affects calf muscles of the leg, back muscles (hamstrings) or front muscles (quadriceps) of the thigh. However, it can appear in rib cage, arms, hands, abdomen, and feet. It is not a serious condition and it resolves on its own in few seconds to few minutes soon after its appearance. It is different from the twitching of the muscle.
Muscle cramps are likely to develop in anybody at any age irrespective of race, caste or sex. It can develop when you overuse or overstrain your muscles, your electrolytes are lost in dehydration, your muscle is injured, you are pregnant, you have menses or hypothyroidism, you have consumed alcohol too much, you consume certain medicines, and you have kidney failure. It appears soon after a vigorous exercise or a strenuous physical activity such as playing tennis, golf, lifting a heavy load, etc.(3)
Muscle cramps are marked by tightening or hardening of the muscle that may be swollen. It leads to a cramping pain which may be felt intolerable for a few seconds or minutes. However, these symptoms disappear on their own without medications.
Slight stretching or heat application or cold application may help remarkably in relieving the symptoms. In the case of dehydration, plenty of fluids must be consumed to balance the fluid content in the body. Reducing or modifying workout sessions can also improve the condition.
Muscle cramps are common in our day to day life. It may appear suddenly and go in a few seconds or minutes. Hot bath assists a lot in reducing the contraction and soreness of the muscles. It improves the blood supply to the affected muscle. But it should be noted that hot bath or other heat therapies should be performed after 48 hours of the injury.
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- Treatment for Muscle Cramps, its Recovery Period & Prevention
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