Causes of Muscle Cramps After Heavy Exercise & Ways to Get Rid of It

Exercising on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do for your body. Not only does it help you stay fit and lean but also provides you with strength and boosts blood circulation and immunity. Sometimes when you perform heavy exercises or undergo a rigorous work out session, you might experience muscle cramps. You must know that you are not alone and several people feel such muscle cramps after heavy exercise. Know why we get muscle cramps after heavy exercise and the treatment for it.

Though this is quite common in people who are new to the world of exercising, it also occurs in athletes who need to perform rigorous exercises day after day. Muscle cramps after heavy exercise are involuntary muscle contractions which are generally followed with immense pain and may take some time to go away.

What Causes Muscle Cramps After Heavy Exercise?

What Causes Muscle Cramps After Heavy Exercise?

Though the exact cause of why we get muscle cramps after heavy exercise is not clear, there are several factors which might be responsible for it. Let us discuss the major factors because of which we get muscle cramps after heavy exercise.

Perceived Injury

When you perform heavy exercise, the muscles get strained which can result in microscopic tears in it. Though such tears are not severe, the body perceives it to be an injury thereby releasing white blood cells to control the damage and repair it. This results in cramps and pain in the affected muscle region. This is one of the commonest causes of muscle cramps after heavy exercise.

Muscle Fatigue

Muscle fatigue or muscles that easily get tired are another major cause of muscle cramps after heavy exercise. In some cases, due to previous trauma, surgery or any medical condition, certain muscles of the body may remain weak. If you have such weak muscles there are chances that you can get muscle cramps after heavy exercise.

Inadequate Warm Up and Stretching

Improper exercise techniques and inadequate warm up or cool down often results in muscle cramps after heavy exercise. If we start performing our heavy exercise regime without adequate warm up it too can cause muscle cramps. Similarly, if you finish your workout session without stretching and cool down exercises, it too can give way to painful muscle cramps quite easily.


One of the major reasons why we get muscle cramps after heavy exercise is dehydration. If the muscles do not get sufficient amount of water during or before the exercise, the chances of involuntary contraction increases tenfold. Heavy exercise causes you to perspire immensely and during summers this perspiration increases even more. Dehydration also causes you to lose potassium, sodium, magnesium and other vital minerals and salts from the body. This results in salt imbalance in the body giving rise to painful muscle cramps after heavy exercise. Cramps related to salt imbalance is more common in individuals who consume insufficient amounts of minerals in their every day diet.

Use of Prescription Medicines

Individuals who are on diuretics or other specific prescription medication are at greater risk of losing water from the body. They too might experience muscle cramps after heavy exercise, especially in their leg muscles.

Existing Medical Condition

If you are an athlete who suffers from diseases such as anemia or diabetes, then the chances of getting muscle cramps after heavy exercise increases tremendously. In some cases, it is not the exercise which causes the muscle cramps after heavy exercise. If an individual is already suffering from a medical condition, then the cramp might be an exaggerated factor of the same, which occurs during heavy exercise. Hence, it is important to inform your trainer about any existing medical condition to plan apt exercises for you at the most desired pace.

Ways to Get Rid of Muscle Cramps after Heavy Exercise

In most cases, muscle cramps after heavy exercise go away in few minutes without causing any major trouble for you. The chances of getting such cramps increase in those people whose muscles get tired easily during a heavy exercise session.

Here are some of the best and simplest ways to get rid of muscle cramps if it lasts for more than a few minutes after its occurrence.

  • As soon as you feel a muscle cramp after heavy exercise, inform your trainer about it. It is necessary to hold the affected part and stretch it gently which is undoubtedly one of the best ways to deal with the problem. Stretching helps to ease the tension in the affected muscle and prevents any further injury from taking place. If no trainer is present, simply hold the affected part with both hands and stretch it outwards 4 to 5 times on your own.
  • If the cramp persists for long, make use of muscle relaxants and pain killers which are quite effective in getting rid of it. However, it is strictly advisable to consult your physiotherapist or doctor before use.
  • Using a hot and cold compress can also be a great treatment to get rid of muscle cramps after heavy exercising. Apply a heat pad on the affected area for 2 to 3 minutes and then alternate it with a cold compress. Repeat 4 to 5 times to get immense relief from both the cramping and the pain. Hot and cold compress increases flow of blood in the affected muscle and also relaxes it from within.
  • Cold fomentation is used in only acute cases where the cramping and pain is simply unbearable or an acute injury is suspected.
  • Massage the affected area gently for a few minutes to help reduce the cramps along with the pain.
  • If the cause of the muscle cramps is dehydration, it is recommended that you drink at least 3 to 4 glasses of water within the new few minutes of experiencing the cramp. This will help hydrate every muscle of the body and prevent involuntary muscle contraction. Also, eat a well balanced diet which consists of a good amount of minerals and minerals to ensure proper salt balance in the body at all times.
  • The best treatment of muscle cramps after heavy exercise is to plan a realistic workout regime, without overdoing anything. Also, it is necessary to have proper warm up and cool down, to allow the muscles to get ready before and relax after the workout.
  • For people with injured or weak muscles, appropriate rehabilitation or physical therapy must be planned. Strengthening exercises for the specific muscles can help the strength and act as a natural treatment for muscle cramps after heavy exercise.


Muscle cramps are not a serious problem and in most cases go away on their own. Also, following the treatment for muscle cramps after heavy exercise will help eliminate the problem almost completely. However, if the cramps persist, it is advisable to seek medical opinion and get rid of the problem at the earliest.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 2, 2018

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