Muscle cramps are also referred to as muscle spasm. It occurs when a muscle group undergoes voluntary contraction. As a result, the muscles tighten up and give excruciating pain. So, it becomes difficult to move that part of the body. All the muscles of the body can get cramps. However, calf muscles, thigh muscles, back muscles, and arms muscles are at a higher risk of cramping because they are often being overused during various activities. Adults particularly elderly people are more prone to this condition. That does not mean that children do not get affected by the same.
What Triggers it?
One of the most commonly found causes is weakening of the muscles. If the muscles lose their natural flexibility due to aging or illness, then they may get cramped even while doing regular physical activities. Besides, there are other factors that can lead to such consequences. They are as follows:
- Fatigue or temporary loss of strength in the muscles due to overdoing of physically strenuous activities.
- Injury where the muscles get strained or tears develop in muscle fibers.
- Awkward posture while sitting, standing, or lying.
- Dehydration of the body because of heavy sweating or low-water intake.
- Nutritional deficiency
- Side effects of medicines
The duration of a muscle cramp is different in every individual case. Some people may get it for a couple of seconds while others may be bothered by it for several hours. Even after the cramp subsides, the soreness of the muscles stays on for several hours. With some quick measures, one can reduce the duration of the cramps and intensity of the pain of the sore muscles. Here are some ways to get rid of this condition:
Heat can be applied on muscular cramps provided there is no inflammation. It will release the tension from the taut muscles and make them more flexible by improving the blood flow. One can apply heat on the cramp in many different ways. Dip a towel in hot water, wring out the extra water from it and place it over the affected muscle. A warm bath where a cup of Epsom salt has been added to the bath water can be equally beneficial. Heat can be applied with the help of a heating pad.
When this condition causes swelling, then ice application is an excellent remedy. It would provide a relaxing effect on the cramping muscles. It also restricts the blood flow in the region by constricting the blood vessels and thus, reduces the swelling. As the swelling decreases, one gets relief from the pain as well.
Massage the Area
Gentle massaging of the affected muscle and its surrounding area will help provide relief. Move the fingers back and forth with a firm pressure over the tender muscles several times till the cramp is eased off. Adjust the pressure of the fingers as per one's tolerance. Initially, it may hurt when the area is touched but after a few massage strokes, one would feel much better. For cramps in back muscles or arms muscles, the affected person would have to ask someone to do the massage for him/her.
Stretch the Cramped Muscle
Gentle stretching of the muscle can relieve the tension from the same really well. It increases blood flow to affected muscle and ensures recovery. While stretching the muscles, make sure to hold each of the stretches till one finishes counting 15. While doing any stretching, if one feels that the pain is getting aggravated, then stop immediately.
Take Pain Relieving Medicines
When the pain is unbearable, then take one pill of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug. This would help lower the pain temporarily. However, this medicine is not going to help in healing up the muscles. Therefore, one should not take them randomly. It is also recommended to consult the concerned doctor before opting for the pill.
Hydrate the Body
While one is trying to get rid of this condition with massage, stretching, etc., drink water in small sips after every 10-15 minutes. This will hydrate the cells of the muscles and help to relax them. When the cramped muscles are healing, one has to ensure that the body is properly hydrated. Drink 8-10 glasses of water throughout the day. One can also have a sports drinks with electrolyte content for better results.
Prevention is the best way to get rid of this problem permanently. Regular stretching exercises make the muscles strong and flexible, and protect them from any kind of injury. Before and after any physically strenuous activity, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Eat healthy foods that are rich in potassium, calcium, and vitamins to keep the muscles in a healthy state.
Disclaimer: This HolisticZine article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.