UNDERSTANDING AND PREVENTING MUSCLE CRAMPS

We have probably all suffered from muscle cramps before; those spontaneous, sustained and painful muscle contractions. Even when they are very brief, they can cause a lot of pain…

Muscle cramps are very common, particularly in pregnant women and older people.

These contractions are always involuntary, do not loosen immediately and cause a visible or palpable stiffening of the muscle lasting from a few seconds to 15 minutes and sometimes longer. They are triggered by an electrical impulse from the body. Frequently, these cramps will occur several times before stopping by themselves .
They can affect any muscle, be it the calves, the legs, the feet, the neck… A muscle contraction can involve part of a muscle, a whole muscle or even several muscles at the same time.

It often happens during physical exercise or at night, which is known as nocturnal cramp.

What's more, no-one is spared, not even children!

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR MUSCLE CRAMP?

It is difficult to know exactly what causes cramp. Nevertheless, it has been shown that certain factors may tend to increase occurrences of cramp:

 

-Intensive physical exercise without preparation or sufficient warming up

-Pregnancy or old age

-Certain metabolic problems such as dehydration, excessive liquorice consumption, etc.

-Certain "intoxications" such as stimulant abuse (tea, coffee, etc.)

-A large amount of sweating

-Muscle overloading (for example when you stay standing up for too long)

-The cold

-Certain vitamin deficiencies

-Poor blood flow to the legs

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IN THE CASE OF CRAMP?

When you suffer from a cramp during a physical activity, you must of course stop exercising and, if possible, stretch the muscle on a cold surface to ease the pain.

You should then gently massage the muscle and drink a glass of sugary water.

If you have cramp in your calf, you should lie on your back, raise your leg and ask someone to gently massage it while stretching your foot upwards. Drink a glass of sugary water at the same time.

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT CRAMP?

To avoid painful muscle contractions as much as possible, you should:

 

-Ensure you are well-hydrated before, during and after a physical activity and even when you aren't doing sport

-Warm up correctly

-Avoid consuming alcohol, tobacco and stimulants such as coffee and tea

-Do regular or even daily stretching exercises.

 

Finally, if you do not manage to soothe your pain, do not hesitate to consult your doctor.

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