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Muscle Cramps: Top 5 Tips

The pain from muscle cramps can strike anytime and anywhere. If you have ever suffered from a muscle cramp, you know how unbearable the pain can be and how all activity stops until it is resolved.

At their best, a muscle cramp might just be a distracting annoyance. However, the pain can be crippling and require you to sideline yourself until the cramp is relieved.


Muscle cramps are the sudden, out of your control contraction of muscle fibers. Typically, they only last for a few seconds and will go away on their own. A muscle cramp can occur for several reasons. For those of you that are physically active, a cramp may occur due to overuse of a specific muscle.


Another common culprit, especially during the hot summer months, is dehydration. When we allow certain essential minerals to become depleted, a muscle cramp may happen. These minerals include calcium, potassium, and sodium.

  • Poor circulation or a lower than optimal supply of blood to the legs and feet can also create cramps.
  • In addition, several medical conditions can lead to muscle cramps, such as kidney failure, pregnancy, alcoholism, and a poorly functioning thyroid gland.
Therefore, it’s vital that you see your health care team right away; you may need blood tests and tests of your kidneys and thyroid to rule out a serious condition. 

For those of us without an underlying medical condition, avoiding a muscle cramp is relatively straightforward! When a muscle cramp occurs, think massage, stretch, and water. Then, read on for five essential tips to treat and prevent muscle cramps!


1. Exercise:

  • This is a tricky cause because the experts aren’t entirely sure why they occur during and after exercise, especially during endurance types sports. They may be due to a combination of a glitch in neuromuscular control, low electrolyte levels, and dehydration. 

  • If you are in it for the long haul, be sure to stay hydrated and choose a drink with electrolytes. If you feel a cramp coming on, take the time to rest and stretch out the affected muscle.

     

    2. Dehydration: 

    We get caught up in life, it can be all too easy to forget about our critical need for water.

    • Dehydration can range from mild to severe and can be life-threatening.
    • Symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, and of course, muscle cramps and spasms.
    • If your mouth is dry, you are likely dehydrated. Remember, your urine should be clear, a key sign that you are well hydrated. 

     

    3. Ease it Out:

  • When a muscle cramp occurs, you want to ease your discomfort quickly so that you can get back to life. The muscle has contracted, so you want to release that contraction. A great way to do this and ease the pain and discomfort is to lengthen the muscle fibers.

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    Do this by stretching the cramped muscle and convincing it to relax back to its resting state. The key to stretching a cramped muscle is to proceed slowly and with gentle hands.

    Then, add in some self-massage for focused relief and recovery using massage balls or roller sticks


    4. Hot or Cold?

    Experience has taught me this choice is often a personal preference. I have always preferred ice or cold compresses after the cramp releases and then a hot bath or heating pad later on when the worst pain has passed. I love using an ice cube on sore spots; take the cube and move it around the sore site in gentle circles.

    Muscle roller sticks are an excellent way to improve circulation, ease muscle cramps, and relieve any discomfort from exercise. 

     

    5. Be Proactive!

  • No one wants to suffer a muscle cramp, and while they can come on seemingly without warning or reason, there are many steps that you can take to prevent this injury. For example, avoid a huge meal before a game or a workout, and avoid any foods or drinks that contain caffeine. 

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    Drink plenty of water, especially when you are active! Include a solid warm-up and stretching session prior to your workouts; not only will this help to prevent muscle cramps, but it will also improve your performance and reduce your risk of other injuries.

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