All you need to know about muscle cramps and how to treat them

It has probably happened to all of us, during workouts, while cycling, at work or during the sleep. Muscle cramps can be very uncomfortable and painful, especially if you are in the middle of an activity and you are not sure what should you do to stop it.

In this article I will explain what muscle cramps are, why are you experiencing these and I will give you a few tips to help you treat and avoid muscle cramps. Keep reading to find out more!

What are muscle cramps?

According to Mayo Clinic “A muscle cramp is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles.” If you had one, then you know this is painful, it can last from a few seconds to a several minutes and during this time it is almost impossible to use the affected muscle. You might have felt this contractions during your workouts, while lying in bed or when taking a walk.

Most muscle cramps appear in your legs or in the abdominal area. Besides the sudden pain, you might also feel or see a hard lump of muscle tissue beneath your skin.

Why are you experiencing muscle cramps?

There are different causes that trigger muscle cramps including:
  • Dehydration: this happens especially if you are working out outside on a warm weather. In this case your body is loosing fluids which results in loss of electrolytes and sodium, which are vital for your body to function. 
  • Holding the muscle in an uncomfortable position, for a long period of time; sitting on a hard surface for a long time; or sleeping in an awkward position. 
  • Poor blood circulation: due to the narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to your legs 
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Not stretching enough before and after your workouts
  • Working out your muscles to hard
  • Compression of nerves in your spine 
  • Muscle cramps can also happen due to a medical condition such as diabetes, thyroid, kidney and liver disorders. 
  • Lack of minerals in your diet such as potassium, magnesium or calcium. This can especially occur during your pregnancy.

How can you stop muscle cramps?

Stopping muscle cramps can be tricky, as you would need to try different methods to find out which works for you. Here are few tips you can try:
  • You can warm the muscle by taking a warm shower to relax it, or by using a heating pad on the area where you have cramps.
  • You can also try using an ice pack wrapped in a towel/ cloth
  • Hydrate yourself. Make sure you are drinking enough water every day, especially during your workouts and after. 
  • Increase your circulation through foam rolling. This will improve the blood flow to your muscles
  • If it happens during your workout you should stretch the affected muscle gently and you should rest until the cramp stops. You can also relax the area by massaging the muscles, however don’t force it if it is to painful. 
  • It is also helpful to stretch before bedtime so you avoid the night time cramps
  • If you train regularly and you build your fitness in a consistent way you can avoid the muscle cramps. In this way you are not pushing your limits to fast, your body builds slowly and you also avoid injuring yourself. 
  • To make up for the minerals and vitamins shortage, which cause you the cramps, you can include in your diet foods such as bananas (full of potassium which you can lose while you sweat); sweet potato (also includes potassium & it is great for your muscles and nervous system to properly function); dark green leafs (these include the calcium); or pumpkin seeds (full of magnesium)
  • If these muscle cramps come back and persist I strongly recommend seeing a doctor as these could be a results of a medical condition.

It’s important to understand that your body is a complex system which will send you signs when you don’t properly take care of it. So drink plenty of water, rest when you need to, eat a balanced meal every time and work out regularly. I hope these simple tips will help you to avoid having any more muscle cramps.

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