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Muscle Cramps

Have you experienced your calf or foot muscles becoming hard, tight and painful suddenly? You try moving your leg around to get rid of the sudden wooden feeling? Well, this is a muscle cramp that you may be experiencing.

What is this muscle cramp and how you can treat it will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

What are Muscle Cramps?

The involuntary and temporary contraction of the strong muscle, leading to severe pain and discomfort is called as a muscle cramp. The pain may occur suddenly at night or when one is running. The pain is excruciating, however, it is harmless in most cases. During a cramp, it is very difficult to use the affected muscle.

What are the Symptoms of Muscle Cramps?

Muscle cramps cause a slight tic or agonizing pain in the affected muscle. The affected muscle becomes hard to touch and appears distorted or twitched. A muscle cramp can last for a few seconds to 15 minutes or longer. The cramp may reoccur within a few minutes of the first cramp or maybe after days.

What Causes Muscle Cramps?

Muscle cramps occur due to many reasons.

These include:

  • Overuse of a muscle by cycling, running, walking or sitting in position for a long time
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Low levels of minerals in the body like calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium
  • In women, they may occur during menstruation or during pregnancy
  • Low blood supply in the legs or feet
  • Spinal nerve compression
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Kidney failure
  • Alcoholism
  • Idiopathic causes in some cases

Diagnosis of Muscle Cramps

Frequent muscle cramps that do not get better with self-care requires a doctor’s attention. The doctor will ask you various questions regarding the cramps. He may test your blood for potassium and calcium levels as well as assess your thyroid and kidney function. In some cases, electromyography will be conducted to measure the muscle activity and check for abnormalities of the muscle.

Treatment for Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps usually do not require any treatment and resolve on their own. However, one can apply hot or cold compress to relieve sore muscles. Over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen will help ease the discomfort. If the cramps occur in sleep, the doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants to prevent cramps. If one is suffering from an underlying condition like lack of minerals or other diseases that leads to cramps, it will be treated first.

Prevention of Muscle Cramps

One can prevent muscle cramps by avoiding excessive physical strain or exercise. Make sure one carries out warm up exercises before they play a game or hit the gym. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Speak to your doctor, whether you require calcium or vitamin supplements. Eat healthy and maintain your weight.

Muscle cramps are not serious till they cause disruption in your daily life. If you experience severe and recurrent cramps, make sure your visit your doctor as soon as possible.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 29, 2015

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