We all felt that awful sensation in the middle of the night, right after we wake up, or during an exercise. But, what exactly are muscle cramps, and why do they occur? And, most importantly, how to avoid them or stop them once they occur?
Today’s blog post will teach you everything you need to know about muscle cramps: the what, the why, and the how. So, if you’ve been suffering from muscle cramps grab your notes because this article is full of actionable information to finally put an end to pain.
What are muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps are painful spasms that can occur during or after performing physical exercise. These spasms usually occur when the muscle contracts and you cannot relax it. When this happens, you will most likely notice that you need to stop doing whatever you are doing for a while until the cramp is over.
Oftentimes, this pain may last anywhere between seconds, a few minutes, and even 15 minutes or more. Even if it sounds scary, muscle cramps are not considered to have any serious long-term effects. So, there’s no need to worry. However, it is important to know how to prevent them as it can directly improve our lives and save us from suffering pain.
Muscle fibres contract unexpectedly and sometimes without warning, causing pain. This can happen during or after exercise. The most commonly affected areas are the calves, feet, and thighs. A muscle cramp can creep into anyone from beginners to professionals.
What Causes Muscle Cramps?
According to The Mayo Clinic, there are numerous reasons that lead to muscle cramps, from age to water imbalances, and bad form. Let’s analyse some of these in detail.
Dehydration commonly leads to muscle cramps. This occurs because
Fluid or mineral imbalances are one of the common causes of muscle cramps, this occurs because cramps are connected to how motor neurons work. These neurons, like all neurons, need “electrical power” to fire. However, when we lack electrolytes a mineral imbalance occurs in the body, provoking muscle cramps.
These so-called electrolytes are substances that break down into ions (electrically charged particles) when dissolved in water. Some of these are sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, and phosphate. Therefore, that explains why Sports drinks often contain the above-mentioned minerals.
Overexertion, either from exercising longer than usual or at a higher intensity. This would explain why it is common to have a cramp when finishing a long or demanding activity such as a marathon, or after a very intense exercise such as a sprint.
Bad form can also cause muscle cramps. Whether that’s bad form when running or making a specific exercise. Form is key, and not only having good form will prevent injuries, but also muscle cramps.
How to avoid muscle cramps
If you are in pain, take a short break from your activity. And although there is no evidence-based treatment yet, there are two approaches that seem to be helpful to prevent muscle cramps.
Hydrate: As per recent research, experts recommend replacing the water and electrolytes lost during exercise. Avid athletes who are more prone to cramps usually benefit from this approach. So grab your favourite sports drink and recover.
Eat a balanced diet: Focus on minerals, such as sodium, magnesium and calcium found in salt, whole grains, green vegetables, bananas, dairy products, spinach, and eggs.
Stretch: if the cramping is caused by fatigue due to excessive training, you can find relief with light stretching and massaging the area. Stretch the affected muscle gently to release the tension. If this often occurs, try to add stretching routines into your training plan.
How to stop muscle cramps when they already occurred?
It’s not too late! Here are some tips that can help relieve muscle cramps once they appear.
● Stop doing whatever you are doing.
● Stretch the cramped muscle and keep it stretched out until the cramp is over.
● Gently try massaging the affected area as you stretch it out.
● Drink water to recover any fluids you may have lost.
● Try a sports drink of your choice or salted water.
● Walk slowly for a while.
● Apply ice to the affected area. Ice can provide relief if your muscles are tender and sore. Use an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel.
I know that you read all over the internet how training hard can help get rid of cellulite, get you fit and shredded, and while that’s true. Training hard just for the sake of it is a terrible idea. That’s why I always recommend people to find an online fitness mentor or follow an online fitness program planned by a professional.
Mindless training can lead to injuries and muscle cramps. Besides, not everything is training, implementing healthy lifestyle habits will help you maintain your best health as you reduce your chances of getting muscle cramps.