Muscle Cramps…Cramping Your Style?

I’m sure many of us have awoken out of a deep, peaceful sleep by a contraction in your calf so intense that it feels as if your flesh is being peeled right off the bone. The discomfortis so intense that your first reaction is to let out a high pitched scream (maybe that’s just me), and catapult yourself out of bed to reach down and stretch out the softball sized knot that magically appeared and took over the territory that your calf used to call home.

That my friend, is what is called a muscle cramp, or to get super technical on you with some good ol’ North American jargon, a Charley horse. You haven’t experienced pain until you’ve had one of these puppies.

What is a Muscle Cramp?

Most commonly experienced in the upper and lower leg muscles, a muscle cramp is a sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle that refuses to loosen and relax. The duration of the cramp can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. A muscle cramp typically occurs when a few of the following conditions exist:

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Mineral depletion
  • Poor flexibility caused by tight muscles
  • Muscle strains
  • Excessive use of alcohol

Common Methods to Treat Muscle Cramps

Some of the common ways of treating muscle cramps/spasms is through receiving the right minerals and vitamins through your diet. Foods such as black beans, bananas, apricots, tomatoes, avocados, and watermelon, all provide adequate amounts of the nutrients needed to decrease the occurrence of muscle cramps.

Replenishing the body’s electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride) after a bout of physical activity will also help prevent muscle cramps by aiding the body’s facilitation of muscle contractions, nerve conduction and fluid regulation.

Gentle passive stretching, massage, icing the affected area and concentrating on contracting the opposing muscle group may also help alleviate the muscle cramp.

There is no sure-fire way to prevent muscle cramps from happening. However, being conscientious about replacing minerals lost through sweat and strenuous activity is a good first step to reducing the frequency of them occurring.

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