Muscle cramps are the conditions characterized by involuntary contractions of the muscle fibers or a group of muscle fibers.1 They are usually short durational. They settle by themselves in a few minutes to fifteen minutes. They can affect any organ of the body such as intestines or even blood vessel walls. But, they usually affect skeletal muscles which are voluntary muscle. They affect most commonly legs (calf muscles). They can appear at any age but their risk increases with increasing age. They are caused by vigorous exercises, loss of electrolytes in dehydration, sedentary lifestyle, and many more.
How To Cope With Muscle Cramps?
Muscle cramps come and go by themselves in a few minutes.1 Often, they do not require treatment. Few methods adopted in the home can relieve the cramps easily-
Stop The Provoking Activity- when you experience muscular cramps, immediately stop doing the activity that has triggered the cramp.
Massage- gently massaging and stretching the affected muscle and holding in a stretched position relieves the cramp.
Putting Weight On The Affected Muscle- another method to ease the cramping muscle is to put a weight on the muscle and bend the neighboring joint. If you experience cramps on thigh muscle, then you should stabilize yourself with the help of a chair and pull your foot towards the buttock. It may ease the cramp too.
Hot Or Cold Application- it is advised to apply heat to tight or tense muscles and cold to sore muscles. It relieves the cramping situation.
Drinking Water- consumption of lots of water in a few minutes helps to reduce dehydration. It will help to settle cramps in the muscle by hydrating the muscles.1
Painkillers- painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can relieve the pain of cramping muscles.
Muscle cramps are also known as Charley horses. They are common condition marked by involuntary contraction and relaxation of the muscles. It affects calves, thigh, foot, arms, hands, abdomen, and muscles around the ribs. The cramps usually appear involuntary muscles of our body. Voluntary muscles are those muscles that are under our control.
Muscle cramps are characterized by hardening of the affected muscle with cramping pain. Hardened muscles are also visible during the spasms. They may also twitch during cramps.
Muscle Cramps Causes
The causes of muscle cramps are
Dehydration- loss of electrolytes happens with the loss of water when the body is dehydrated. It causes loss of sodium, potassium, and other minerals leading to spasm in the muscles.
Vigorous Exercise- strenuous exercises cause over activity of the muscles leading to involuntary muscular spasms in the body.2
Improper Nutrition- a dietary absence of vitamins and minerals affect the strength and function of muscles. For instance absence of vitamin D causes improper absorption of calcium leading to involuntary spasms of the muscles.
Trauma To Muscle- injury to the muscles of the body may cause improper contractions in the muscle.
Metabolic Disorders – hypothyroid, diabetes and other metabolic disorders affect the calcium and other minerals absorption in the body leading to muscle contractions.
Alcoholism- too much and too frequent consumption of alcohol may cause involuntary spasms in muscle.3
Certain Medicines- few medicines such as diuretics, birth control pills, steroids, etc. may cause muscle cramps due to loss of water and deficient nutrient absorption.
Cold Weather- frequent exposure to cold weather may induce involuntary spasms in the muscle.
Pregnancy- pregnancy induces a lot of hormonal changes in the body that may trigger muscle spasms.
When muscle fibers or group of muscles contract involuntarily, then this condition is known as muscle cramps. Avoidance of the provoking activity, heat or cold application, and others discussed above can help in dealing with muscle cramps.
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