Muscle Cramps

Definition:   A muscle cramp is an involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax. When we use the muscles that can be controlled voluntarily, such as those of our arms and legs, they alternately contract and relax as we move our limbs. Muscles that support our head, neck, and trunk contract similarly in a synchronized fashion to maintain our posture. A muscle (or even a few fibers of a muscle) that involuntarily (without consciously willing it) contracts is in a “spasm.” If the spasm is forceful and sustained, it becomes a cramp. Muscle cramps often cause a visible or palpable hardening of the involved muscle.

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Muscle cramps can last anywhere from a few seconds to a quarter of an hour or occasionally longer. It is not uncommon for a cramp to recur multiple times until it finally resolves. The cramp may involve a part of a muscle, the entire muscle, or several muscles that usually act .

A muscle cramp, technically, occurs when your muscle tightens and shortens causing a sudden severe pain. Muscle cramps generally result from overexertion and dehydration.

Most of us have experienced muscle cramps at one time or another. Cramps can affect anyone, whether you are a regular exerciser or a regular couch potato. They strike many of us when we are sound asleep – waking us up in the middle of the night with a sharp, piercing pain. but cramps may affect some of us during a baseball game or in the middle of a volleyball match.

Resulting from an abnormal muscle contraction, a cramp occurs as the muscle locks into an awkward and sustained spasm because of that contraction. Although the calves are the most likely site for a cramp, any muscle in the body is vulnerable. Medical specialists are not exactly sure what causes cramps, but they do recognize several factors that are associated with them. Muscles that are overworked, injured or exposed to extreme temperatures may be more likely to succumb to a cramp.

Facts about Muscle Cramps:
*A muscle cramp is an involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax.
*Almost everyone experiences a muscle cramp at some time in their life.
*There are a variety of types and causes of muscle cramps.
*Numerous medicines can cause muscle cramps.
*Most muscle cramps can be stopped if the muscle can be stretched.
*Muscle cramps can often be prevented by measures such as adequate nutrition and hydration, attention to safety when exercising, and attention to ergonomic factors. Continue Reading.

Types of muscle cramps:

True cramps:……click & see
True cramps involve part or all of a single muscle or a group of muscles that generally act together, such as the muscles that flex several adjacent fingers. Most authorities agree that true cramps are caused by hyperexcitability of the nerves that stimulate the muscles. They are overwhelmingly the most common type of skeletal muscle cramps. True cramps can occur in a variety of circumstances as follows

Nocturnal leg cramps… & see
Nocturnal leg cramps are involuntary muscle contractions that occur in the calves, soles of the feet or other muscles in the body during the night or (less commonly) while resting. The duration of nocturnal leg cramps is highly variable with cramps sometimes only lasting a few seconds and other times several minutes. Soreness in the muscles may remain for some time after the cramp ends. These cramps are more common in older populations but may happen to anyone. They can happen quite frequently in teenagers and in some cases while exercising at night. Nocturnal leg cramps can be very painful especially if dehydrated.

The precise cause of these cramps is unclear. Potential contributing factors are believed to include low levels of certain minerals (magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium), dehydration and prolonged sitting. Less common causes include more serious conditions or use of drugs.
An unrelated condition is restless legs syndrome, an unpleasant sensation that is relieved by moving the leg, but which rarely includes cramping or pain.

Smooth muscle….click & see
Smooth muscle contractions lie at the heart of the cramping (or colicky) pain of internal organs. These include the intestine, uterus, ureter (in kidney stone pain) and various others.

Skeletal muscle
Skeletal muscles are muscles in our body that we can control (voluntarily). These muscles include the calves, thighs, and arches in the foot and cramp more often than any other muscles.

Skeletal muscle cramps can be categorized into four major types. These include true” cramps, tetany, contractures, and dystonic cramps. Cramps are categorized according to their different causes and the muscle groups they affect.

There are two basic causes of cramping. One is inadequate oxygenation of muscle, and the other is lack of water or salt. Cramps from poor oxygenation can be improved by rapid deep breathing, as well as stretching the muscle. Cramps from lack of salt and water can be treated by stretching the muscle, and of course drinking water and increasing salt intake. Pounding on the muscle can increase soreness.

Other factors include:
Dehydration – A body that is dehydrated can make muscles more vulnerable to cramps. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids during the day, especially if you exercise.

Electrolyte imbalance
– Electrolytes can be found in the minerals potassium and sodium, and they carry an electric charge that helps trigger your muscles to contract and relax. Dehydration can disrupt the balance between potassium and sodium which may cause muscle cramps. You need to constantly refurbish your body’s fluids in order to keep electrolyte balance and reduce your chances of suffering muscle cramps.

Mineral Deficiency – Sometime, too much or too little of certain minerals other than potassium and sodium in your diet can onset a muscle cramp. Two important minerals for your body are calcium and magnesium. Sufficient amounts of these and other minerals in your diet can help you avoid muscle cramps.

Relief and Treatment
For immediate relief of a cramp, gently stretch the muscle. Although this can be quite painful, it will help the muscle to relax. Stretching a contracted muscle increases the tension on the tendons and causes the muscle to relax. Pressing on the muscle, massaging it and applying ice while stretching can also help to relieve the cramp.

Stretching and massaging are only temporary treatments for a continuing problem. In order to avoid muscle cramps in the future, you must change some of your dietary and lifestyle habits. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, get enough potassium and sodium by eating foods such as bananas and oranges, build up your body’s levels of other important minerals, keep your muscles in shape and conditioned with regular exercise, stretch your muscles throughout the day, and wear appropriate clothing – tight clothing that interferes with blood flow can lead to cramps.

You should also make sure to drink plenty of fluids. If you get muscle cramps after exercise, drink water or a sports drink or juice to rehydrate and restore your electrolyte balance. Most of the time water will be sufficient to rehydrate you, however, you are then better off choosing a sports drink containing electrolytes.

You may also undo a cramp with ice. Ice is both a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory. Try massaging the area with ice for no more than ten minutes or until the area is bright red, which indicates that blood cells have returned to heat the cramped muscle. If ice is too uncomfortable, try heat. Heat improves superficial blood circulation and makes muscles more flexible, so some people find that heat is more soothing for muscle cramps than ice. Try a heating pad for 20 minutes at a time or even a warm shower or bath. Make sure to massage the muscle with your hands following ice or heat.

Electrolyte disturbance may cause cramping and tetany of muscles, particularly hypokalemia (a low level of potassium) and hypocalcemia (a low level of calcium). This problem can be solved by drinking electrolyte enhanced fluids, after strenuous muscle activity, and supplementing your daily diet with a multi-vitamin, which contains potassium and calcium.

For permanent cure one should do regularly Yoga Exercise Under the guidance of an expart, drink plenty of fresh  water and eat foods high in potassium, such as bananas, potatoes, and prunes.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.

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