Almost everyone has experienced muscle cramps or spasms at least once in their life. While generally harmless, muscle cramps cause quite an inconvenience and are often quite painful. Read on to find out everything you need to know about muscle spasms.
Muscle spasms or cramps are the sudden and painful tightening or contraction of your muscles (1,2,3,4). People who have experienced muscle spasms describe them as uncomfortable twitches that range from mild to intense. Consequently, the pain that they produce also varies from mild discomfort to severe pain.
Cramps are common, involuntary, and often, unexpected. Most cases of cramps generally last for a few minutes. These spasms or cramps are typically harmless, though they do cause some mild discomfort because of the temporary pain they produce.
The exact cause behind spasms is yet to be determined. However, some risk factors, such as age, poor posture and/or general poor physical condition, are believed to trigger the twitches (6).
As stated earlier, the exact cause of a muscle spasm is still unknown. However there are some factors that can increase the risk of having them (1,2,3,4).
When the arteries that deliver blood to your muscles narrow, they might lead to muscle cramps and pain (7). Usually, this occurs when you are exercising or doing intense movements (8).
The compression (pinching) of nerves in your spine might lead to muscle cramps (9).
Deficiency in essential minerals in your diet, like magnesium, might lead to muscle cramps (10).
Muscle cramps are more likely to occur when the body is stiff (12). Daily stretching can decrease the chances of experiencing muscle cramps (11).
After a grueling workout, your muscles are more likely to spasm due to a myriad of reasons (13). Factors such as lack of blood supply, dehydration, or even nerve compression, are thought to be the cause (14).
As mentioned earlier, lack of water in your body might lead to muscle spasms (15). Muscles tend to be stiff and sore when they lack water (16).
Physical activity under the sweltering sun might cause muscle cramps (17). Working out in the heat can lead to dehydration and general muscle fatigue, two factors that may lead to muscle spasm (18).
Sitting for too long or even simply retaining an unnatural posture for too long can lead to muscle cramps. This can specifically cause muscle cramps in your legs (19).
Muscle spasms vary in intensity. This means that for some, it can just feel like a mild, uncomfortable twitching on your sides. While to others, the pain can be debilitating. Usually, it’s hard to touch the area experiencing the spasm (2). One important thing to keep in mind is that muscle spasms are sudden and often come without warning.
There are some risk factors when it comes to muscle spasms. These factors might increase the risk of you experiencing cramps. Here are some of them (1,2,3,4):
As people age, they tend to be more susceptible to experiencing cramps. This is because we are likely to lose muscle mass as we age. This causes the remaining muscles to be overstressed as they need to carry more load (20).
Athletes or people often involved in sports, especially when they stay too long in the heat, are more likely to experience spasms due to muscular fatigue and dehydration (16).
Pregnant women are more likely to experience muscle spasms or cramps. This is why many pregnant women complain about muscle spasms in legs (21).
Some medical conditions can cause you to be more likely to experience muscle cramps. Consult your doctor if your pre-existing conditions put you at a higher risk (22).
Generally, muscle spasms go away on their own after a few minutes. Some treatments or methods however might help provide relief from the pain or might expedite healing. Here are some of those (1,2,3,4).
Slowly and lightly stretching the affected muscles can help alleviate pain and hasten recovery. Consult a doctor or professional on how to properly stretch and massage the affected parts.
Applying an ice pack to the affected area can help the muscle cramp subside quicker (23).
Some medicines can help alleviate the pain and control the cramping of your muscles (24).
If the cramps are taking too long or you are feeling a tremendous amount of pain, head to an emergency room or immediately consult your doctor.
Here are some daily activities you can do to help prevent muscle cramps (1,2,3,4):
Daily stretching helps keep the body limber and stops it from becoming stiff.
Always make sure to drink water, especially when you are outdoors or are doing intense physical activities like sports or working out.
Make sure that you are taking adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals either from your food or supplementation when your diet is inadequate.
Magnesium for example is important in a lot of our body’s processes. Magnesium, particularly, helps in the relaxation and contraction of our muscles (5). Deficiency in magnesium might lead to an increased instance of cramps.
If you are on the hunt for a suitable magnesium supplement, Vitable’s Magnesium supplements are a good choice since they not only help relieve muscle cramps but also help reduce their occurrences as well.
Muscle spasms often happen once in a blue moon and when they do, they are generally harmless. Nevertheless, it helps to be equipped with the knowledge of how to deal with them when they do occur.
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*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.