Muscle cramps are rhythmic, contractile but painful movements of your body muscles which occur often as a side effect of intense exercise. While they are not necessarily an indication of any disease, they often cause severe irritation and frustration to many people who suffer from arthritis.
While, most of the time, they do not cause any harm and go away on their own, there are several tips and tricks with which you can easily prevent them from occurring.
When and how muscle cramps occur?
Muscle cramps usually occur when your muscles contract frequently but don’t relax with the same intensity. They are involuntary (occur without your will, without your control). All you can see or feel is intense pain with little twitching movements of your muscles. The fatigue and pain last from a few seconds to about half an hour or more (in severe cases).
While most of the people get cramps during workouts, cramps can also occur after sitting for a very long time (in the same posture) or even during sleeping (if you sleep in the same position for long). In arthritis, they frequently occur in the lower limbs e.g. legs and especially in the calf (in hamstring and quadriceps muscles).
What causes muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps can occur because of several reasons. Some of the common reasons include:
Overstressed body: The more exercise you do, the sooner will be the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles and remember, this is lactic acid accumulation in your muscles that causes fatigue and cramps.
Dehydration: If you drink less water and are short of fluids, it will cause electrolyte imbalance in your blood. This will eventually lead to muscular cramps.
Hot weather: Again, because of profuse sweating during exercise, you tend to lose more fluids especially during the hot weather (summer) and this results in electrolyte imbalance in your blood.
How to prevent or treat muscle cramps?
Stretch: If you include stretching in every workout or exercise, you’ll not only be able to enjoy greater body and joint flexibility but you will also able to keep your muscles lean and healthy. You should gently stretch the affected area; just slowly pushing the muscle until you feel it’s been stretched enough. You can also overcome the pain by gently massaging the cramped muscle or, alternatively, by applying ice on the affected muscle for about fifteen 15 minutes at a time. This will enhance the blood the circulation to the affected area.
Take deep breaths: It’s important that you take proper control over your breathing during each stretch. Taking deep breaths will supply the much needed oxygen to your whole body including muscles.
Warm up: Always warm up especially before performing any heavy exercise. This would prevent your muscles from getting shocked due to the sudden burden. You should slowly, gradually ease yourself into the workouts. Increase your training intensity slowly over time.
Avoid big meals: The idea behind avoiding a big meal just before you do your heavy exercise is simple. As you fill up your stomach with food, much of your blood goes to your digestive system to aid in digestion of the food. However, as soon as you start your work an out, the blood comes back towards your exercising muscles, causing a blood deficiency in digestive tract. This often results in nausea, vomiting nausea and abdominal pain.
Drink plenty of water: Water, like protein, is an essential component of your muscles and naturally you need a continuous, even more supply of water to keep your muscles healthy and active during workouts. This will also keep your joints extending and flexing fluidly and will prevent electrolyte imbalances in your blood that are often the cause of muscle cramps.
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Although muscle cramps are not always serious, you should consult your physician if you continue to get them frequently.