What causes muscle cramps?
A muscle cramp is a sudden, involuntary and painful contraction of a muscle that can last a few seconds up to a few minutes. You may also experience soreness in the area for a few hours or even days following the cramp. They can occur anywhere in the body, but are most frequently felt in the legs and feet (especially in the calves).
It's often difficult to determine the exact cause of muscle cramps, but possible causes may include muscle overuse or strain, inadequate stretching, keeping muscles in one position for a prolonged period of time, or dehydration. Muscle cramps typically resolve on their own and don't require medical attention, but if you are experiencing frequent or severe cramping or other unusual symptoms check with your medical provider as this may be a sign of a more serious underlying cause for your cramps.
During a muscle cramp you may find some relief with gentle pressure or stretching of the area, massaging the area, applying ice or a warm compress, taking a warm bath or shower, or OTC pain relief medications. Although it's not possible to permanently eliminate muscle cramps, there are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of having them:
Drink plenty of fluids, limiting caffeine and alcohol.
Replenish electrolytes with moderate to intense exercise, working in the heat or with excessive perspiration.
Stretch regularly, especially before and after exercise and before bed.
Invest in regular massage therapy.
Wear supportive, high quality shoes.
Consult with your medical provider to see if a vitamin B complex or magnesium may be appropriate for you.
PT, CSCS, Holistic Health & Integrative Nutrition Coach