Muscle cramps are uncontrollable and painful muscle contractions that can occur anytime depending on the cause of the cramps.1 Muscle cramps are commonest in the skeletal muscles of the body. These cramps may occur due to various reasons like electrolyte imbalance, over use of muscles, dehydration, nerve compression, etc. and many more but mostly the cause of muscle cramps remains unknown. Generally muscle cramps last for a few seconds to a few minutes. If these cramps last for more than a few minutes and keep recurring, then medical help should be sought as soon as possible.
Lifestyle Changes For Muscle Cramps
Below given are some of the lifestyle changes that can be done to prevent and cope up with muscle cramps-
Regular Muscle Stretching– To decrease the chances of muscle cramping, you should stretch them regularly. If you are about to use the involved muscle for a long period of time, then it is recommended that you stretch that muscle before using it and also after using that muscle or group of muscles. If a person gets muscular cramps at night, he/she must stretch the involved muscle before going to bed.
Stay Hydrated– Dehydration is a major cause of muscle cramping. Keep your body hydrated to avoid muscle cramps.2 If you do strenuous exercise, you must take in proper amount of fluids to cope up with the water loss that occurs during the physical exercise. Keep your body hydrated every day. When the body is hydrated, the muscles work properly and contract and relax properly and also the cells of muscles stay hydrated and cause less irritation.
Proper And Nutritious Diet– Muscle cramps also occur when there are vitamin deficiencies so the patient must make sure that he/she has nutritious and adequate diet to fulfill all the vitamin requirements. Lots of fruits and vegetables must be ingested.
Regular Massaging– If you massage the involved group of muscles every day, the tension in the muscles will get released and this will reduce the chances of getting muscle cramps.
Proper Physical Activity– The muscles will become more active when you work out properly. The muscles contract and relax properly and thus the chance of muscle cramping reduces.
Warm Up– If you work out, then you must get into the habit of doing proper warm up and stretching before and after the exercise is done to prevent muscle cramping.
Medical Treatment For Muscle Cramps
When the muscle cramps are very severe and cannot be controlled with the help of conservative methods then the health care provider will use certain medications to relieve the symptoms and they are as follows-
Muscle Relaxants– Muscle relaxants are used to treat muscle cramps and muscle spasms. The medications used are- diazepam, baclofen, etc. These medications work by blocking the signals transferred from spinal cord that leads to muscle contraction or spasm.
Botulinum Toxin (Botox)- This toxin is injected into the involved muscle that undergoes cramping. This toxin paralyzes the muscle and leads to relaxation of the muscle. When injected the action of this toxin lasts for a few months and then the injection may be repeated.
Quinine- Quinine is an anti-malarial drug. It is used to treat muscle cramps especially the cramps in the legs.3 The exact mechanism of action is unknown. It is said that, quinine reduces the muscle contractility by decreasing the excitation of motor end plate. However quinine must be used as advised by the health care provider. Usually smaller dose of quinine is used because large doses have shown to cause serious side effects. This drug must be avoided in patients who have active liver disease.
With the help of some lifestyle changes, the occurrence of muscle cramps can be brought under control. The patient must stay hydrated all the time is the first and foremost advise. Dehydration is one of the major causes of muscle cramps. When the body is properly hydrated, the muscles function rhythmically and in synchronicity.
Regular stretching exercises must be done. Other lifestyle changes like proper diet intake, warming up before and after exercise and regular massaging of the involved muscles is also of great benefit for people who suffer with excessive muscle cramps.