Do you struggle with the sudden and reflexive contraction of your muscles? Welcome to the world of involuntary muscle cramps.
Whether you find yourself waking up to leg cramps at night or while working out, muscle cramps are something that can be painful and, for a time, debilitating. Keeping muscles healthy,and limber is important as we use them for simple daily activities like walking, lifting things, and exercising. Several factors may cause pain in muscles and joints, including weather changes (1), nutrient deficiencies and temperature changes which affect fluids in the joints (2). Certain physical conditions can also cause pain for muscles and joints (3).
Read on to learn what muscle cramps are all about and find ways on how to prevent muscle cramps and minimise their occurrence.
Muscle cramps are involuntary and sudden contractions of one or multiple muscles (4). It’s often felt in the feet, thighs, hands, arms, calves, and abdomen (4). It’s normal for anyone to experience them at any time. It might sometimes be interchanged with muscle twitches, spasms, and tension which are all muscle contractions. While muscle contractions can result in different intensities of pain, twitches or spasms are just involuntary muscle tightening (5), while tension or stiffness are prolonged contractions that are connected to certain illnesses (6).
While muscle cramps are essentially harmless, the pain can delay physical activities or wake you up from your sleep. Experiencing muscle cramps may happen at any time but there are conditions that cause them to happen more often compared to others.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of muscle cramps.
Most causes of cramps are unknown, but there are a few contributing factors that may lead to cramps (7):
Muscle cramps begin with an involuntary twitch in the area which is about to cramp up, and it contracts and becomes more painful. Some cramps may go away after a few seconds or minutes, but some tend to stay on for longer. It may help to consult with medical professionals if you experience severe muscle cramping.
There are additional factors that may increase the likelihood of someone encountering muscle cramps. One of these is age, as people tend to lose muscle mass as they get older which can strain or overuse muscles (7). Another is pregnant women, who get more cramps due to weight gain, nerve compressions, and insufficient blood flow to muscles (8).
It might be challenging to prevent muscle cramps from happening as the exact cause is not known and it is difficult to predict when it strikes. But, it’s also good to be more proactive by helping muscles be in their tiptop shape to minimise chances of sporadic cramps.
Try stretching right after you wake up, or before doing workouts. Stretching improves the range of movement of joints and muscles, and lessens the risk of injuries (9). It also prevents people from holding a specific pose or position for too long (7).
There are different types of stretches. For instance, one can try many different yoga poses that require stretching. What’s important for muscle cramp stretches is to not overexert the muscles, and give attention to places where cramping normally happens.
Another way to answer the question of how to prevent muscle cramps is by keeping hydrated. Being exposed to heat while doing physical activities for longer periods of time increases the chances of cramps. A person who is dehydrated loses more fluids which are needed to keep the muscles relaxed7 as well as electrolytes that are essential for muscle health (10).
Hydration should be done even before doing any physical activities as well as after. For workouts longer than 60 minutes, electrolyte drinks can add lost electrolytes and give an energy boost with their carbohydrates content (11).
Some illnesses and medications may heighten the risk of cramps. Doctors or Naturopaths can help you manage these symptoms so that they won’t happen frequently (8). Some might provide medication or provide quick relief options, such as putting warm or hot compress on the cramped area.
Similar to stretches, getting your muscles massaged helps keep them relaxed (4). It provides immediate relief especially for leg and foot cramps, where it feels like muscles are twisted or knotted together (8). A study found that massage even provided relief for women experiencing abdominal cramps during their period12.
Having a well-balanced diet is essential to keeping the body healthy. It also helps in preventing muscle cramps. Nutrient deficiency, in the case of magnesium, may result in muscle contraction and cramps (13). It’s important to make sure that the body has the proper amount of nutrients so that it will function properly and lessen pain due to the occurrence of muscle cramps.
A healthy diet is still the best source of nutrients. However, supplements can act as support in case you are unable to get all the nutrients you need from food.
It’s important to know how to prevent muscle cramps, as cramps are often an unpleasant and painful experience. That’s why it helps to maintain good muscle health, in part through the right food and supplements. Vitable is one of the best vitamin subscription companies which provide quality supplements for your health needs. Whether you need it for muscle cramps or to increase nutrient intake, Vitable vitamins have you covered.
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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.