Most of us with have experienced that sudden and involuntary contraction of muscles. Sometimes they wake you at night but they can come on at any time and are enough to stop you in your tracks. They can cause severe pain and make it impossible to use that muscle for awhile until it eases off.
A very common site to experience a cramp is in the calf muscle. You can feel a hard lump of muscle under the skin when it’s occurring. They usually disappear on their own. Simple massage or walking around may help them ease.
Exercise can bring them on particularly in hot weather or if you are dehydrated and of course most of us are. Holding a position for a prolonged period of time can bring them on. In many cases, we just don’t know the cause.
There are factors that will increase your risk though.
Age: As you get older people tend to be less active and lose muscle mass so the remaining muscle gets overstressed more easily.
Dehydration: As I touched on before most of us don’t drink enough fluid and therefore the muscles can become dehydrated.
Pregnancy: Muscles cramps are very common during pregnancy.
Medical Conditions: Medical conditions such as diabetes, nerve, liver and thyroid disorders will increase your risk of cramps. Impaired circulation will cause cramping and usually stops when you stop exercising (when I say exercising it may just be walking). Compression of the nerves in the spine – lumbar stenosis – again can cause cramping symptoms and sometimes changing your posture can improve symptoms.
Mineral Depletion: Too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can contribute to leg cramps. Diuretics — medications often prescribed for high blood pressure — also can deplete these minerals. [Tip a simple way to increase your Magnesium levels is to have a bath that you’ve added Epsom Salts to 2 cupfuls and soak for 20 minutes it’s worth a try]
Self-help: Avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids every day. About 2 Litres a day is a good average. This will help your muscles contract and relax and make them less irritable. if you are undergoing strenuous exercise or it is very hot you will need to drink more.
Stretch your muscles: Stretch them before and after exercise and if you tend to cramp at night do them before you go to bed.
The should you consult a Doctor about your cramps?
If they cause you severe discomfort
Are associated with leg swelling, redness or skin changes.
Are associated with muscle weakness
Are happening frequently and don’t improve with self-care
Aren’t associated with any cause that you can pinpoint.