Muscle Cramp and Muscle Spasms
Discover what causes muscle cramp, and prevent muscle cramps with these 4 key tips
by Brad Walker | Updated January 23, 2017
Muscle cramp and muscle spasms are an annoying condition that involves a sudden, involuntary contraction and tightening of a muscle that will not immediately relax.
If you suffer from muscle cramps or are seeking to prevent their occurrence it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that’s just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
Muscle cramp and spasms can involve part or all of a muscle, or a number of muscles within a muscle group and although a spasm or cramp can occur in just about any muscle, the most common muscle groups affected are:
- The lower leg and calf muscles.
- The upper leg, including both the hamstrings and quadriceps.
- The feet and hands.
Muscle cramps and spasms can range in intensity from a slight twitch to a severe, agonizing contraction. They can last anywhere from a few seconds to over 15 minutes and can usually be seen visibly by the way the muscle twitches and moves under the skin.
People who are at the greatest risk of muscle cramps and spasms are those who ill, overweight or unfit. Those who take drugs or certain medication, and those who live or work in excessive heat and humidity are also prone to cramping. Muscle cramps are also common among endurance athletes and people over 65 years of age who perform strenuous physical activity.
What Causes Muscle Cramp and Spasm?
There are a number of factors that contribute to muscle cramps and spasms, the main ones being:
- Poor flexibility and tight muscles;
- Muscle fatigue and overuse;
- Dehydration; and
- Electrolyte and mineral depletion.
A number of other factors include working or exercising in high heat and humidity, inadequate blood supply, injury or muscle strain and excessive use of alcohol, drugs and medication.
Treating Muscle Cramp and Spasm
Muscle cramps and spasms will usually go away on their own but there are a few important steps you can take to decrease the severity and duration of them.
- Stop the activity that triggered the cramp in the first place.
- Gently stretch the effected muscle or muscle group.
- Keep the effected areas moving with light activity and gentle massage.
- Continue to apply heat and massage to help promote blood flow.
4 Tips for Preventing Muscle Cramp and Spasm
One of the most useful things you can do to help prevent muscle cramps and spasms is to work on improving your overall general health and fitness. Improving your cardiovascular fitness will improve the delivery of blood to your muscles, which will ensure that they have adequate amounts of oxygen and nutrients to function properly.
Another important activity that is very effective in helping to prevent muscle cramp is ensuring adequate hydration and electrolyte replenishment. In general you should be consuming at least 8 to 10 glasses of filtered water a day and more if you’re involved in strenuous physical activity or live and work in high heat and humidity.
If you seem to be prone to muscle cramp and muscle spasms you should also look at increasing your intake of minerals and electrolytes. The minerals that are most important are Potassium, Sodium, Calcium and Magnesium. Adding a small amount of mineral salt to your cooking, (such as Celtic sea salt) will help to increase your intake of these important minerals.
The other key activity that will help to prevent muscle cramp and spasms is stretching. Keeping your muscles loose and flexible will help to stop them from tightening up and cramping. Be sure to stretch the muscles groups that are most prone to cramping both before and after exercise or strenuous physical activity.
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About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.