A muscle cramp is a sudden and involuntary contraction of at least one of your muscles.
If you have been awakened in the night or stopped in your tracks by a sudden charley horse, you are aware that muscle cramps can cause severe pain.
Though generally harmless, muscle cramps can make it temporarily impossible to use the affected muscle.
Extended periods of exercise or physical labor, particularly in hot weather, may result in muscle cramps.
Some medicines and certain medical conditions may also cause muscle cramps. You generally can treat muscle cramps at a house with aching measures.
Many muscle cramps develop from the leg muscles, particularly in the calf. Besides the sudden, sharp pain, you might also feel or see a hard lump of muscle tissue underneath your skin.
Muscle cramps usually disappear by themselves and are seldom serious enough to need medical care.
However, see your doctor if your cramps:
- Cause severe distress
- Are associated with leg swelling, redness, or skin changes
- Are associated with muscle weakness
- Happen frequently
- Do not enhance self-care
- Aren’t associated with an obvious cause, such as a strenuous workout
Causes of Muscle Cramp:
Overuse of a muscle, dehydration, muscle strain, or just holding a posture for a prolonged period can cause a muscle cramp. In many cases, however, the cause isn’t known.
Though most muscle cramps are harmless, some may be related to an underlying health condition, such as:
Insufficient blood supply.
Narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to your legs (arteriosclerosis of the extremities) can create cramp-like pain in your legs and feet while you’re exercising.
These cramps generally go away soon after you stop exercising.
Compression of nerves in your spine (lumbar stenosis) also can produce cramp-like pain in your legs.
The pain usually worsens the longer you walk through. Walking in a slightly flexed position such as you’d use when pushing a shopping cart before you might improve or delay the onset of your symptoms.
Factors Which May increase your risk of muscle cramps include:
- Age. Older people get rid of muscle mass, therefore the remaining muscle may get overstressed more readily.
- Dehydration. Athletes who become dehydrated and tired when engaging in warm-weather sports often develop muscle cramps.
- Pregnancy. Muscle cramps also are common during pregnancy.
- Medical Conditions. You might be at greater risk of muscle cramps if you have diabetes, or nerve, thyroid, or liver disorders.
These measures may help prevent cramps:
- Prevent dehydration. Drink lots of liquids daily. The amount is dependent on what you eat, your sex, your own level of activity, the weather, your health, your age, and the drugs you take.
Fluids help your muscles relax and contract and keep muscle cells hydrated and less irritable.
Through action, replenish fluids at regular intervals, and continue drinking water or other fluids once you are finished.
- Stretch your muscles. Stretch before and after you use some other muscle for an extended period. If you tend to get leg cramps at night, stretch prior to bedtime.
Moderate exercise, such as riding a stationary bike for several minutes before bedtime, can also help prevent cramps as you’re sleeping.
Treatment for Muscle Cramp:
You can usually treat muscle cramps with self-care measures. Your doctor can show you stretching exercises that could help you reduce your odds of getting muscle cramps.
Ensuring you stay well-hydrated also can help. For recurrent cramps that disturb your sleep, then your doctor may prescribe a medicine to relax your muscles.
Lifestyle and home remedies:
If you have a cramp, these actions may provide relief:
- Stretch and massage. Stretch the cramped muscle and softly rub it to help it relax. For a calf cramp, place your weight in your own cramped leg and bend your knee slightly.
If you’re unable to stand, sit on the ground or in a chair with your affected leg extended.
Try pulling the surface of your foot on the side toward your head while your leg stays in a position.
This will also help alleviate a back thigh (hamstring) cramp. For the front thigh (quadriceps) cramp, use a chair to steady yourself and try pulling your foot on the affected side toward your buttock.
- Apply cold or heat. Taking a warm bath or directing the stream of a hot shower onto the cramped muscle can also help.
Alternatively, massaging the cramped muscle with ice hockey may relieve pain.
Some suggest taking vitamin B complex supplements to help handle leg cramps. However, more research is required to confirm this benefit.
Preparing for your appointment:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have muscle cramps that are severe, frequent rather than getting better with self-care.
Here’s some information that will help you get prepared for the appointment.
Everything you can do:
If you make your appointment, ask if there’s anything you need to do in advance. Create an inventory of:
- Your symptoms, including any that appear unrelated to the cause of your appointment
- Key personal information, including major anxieties, recent lifestyle changes, and family medical history
- All medications, vitamins, and supplements you choose, including dosages
- Questions to ask your Physician
Require a relative or friend as well, if at all possible, to help you remember the information you receive.
For muscle cramp, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What’s probably causing my cramps?
- Are there any other possible causes?
- What tests do I need?
- Is my condition temporary or chronic?
- What is the best plan of action?
- What alternatives are there to the approach you are suggesting?
Don’t hesitate to ask other questions.
Things to expect from your doctor:
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as:
- When did you create cramps?
- How frequent and severe are your cramps?
- Does whatever typically precede your cramps, like mild to strenuous exercise?
- Can you have cramps while napping?
- Does stretching relieve your cramps?
- Can you have other symptoms, such as muscle weakness or numbness?
- Have you noticed changes in your urine after exercise?
Ask your friends and loved ones for support.
If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain…
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