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Muscle Cramps

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A muscle cramp is a sudden forceful uncontrolled contraction of a muscle. Often causing pain, cramps are most commonly experienced in the legs.

Cramps usually last less than one minute, but may last longer.

What causes a cramp?

The exact cause of a cramping is not well understood, but here are some risk factors that are thought to contribute:

Overexertion and muscle fatigue

Excess sweating or dehydration which depletes needed minerals. (Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus).

Calcification, in which blood gets trapped in a muscle and hardens.

Wearing high heel shoes or (men usually) shoe lifts

Age- Leg cramps are more common in adolescents and over 65-ers.

Some medications have cramping as a possible side effect.

Claudication - Poor blood supply to leg muscles caused by smoking and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can cause a type of calf pain called claudication. This could be mistaken for cramping.

A common cause in health clubs is a sudden change in routine such as a 10% plus increase in activity or new or much harder exercises.

How can cramps be prevented? Stay Hydrated - It is not exactly known how dehydration and muscle cramping are related. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise as well as water before bedtime.

Stretch Regularly AFTER Exercising- When working out, a good post-work out stretching routine will help relax muscles and prevent cramps. Also make and sure your heart rate is below 105 bps.

Train Gradually - Gradually build up an exercise program. Sudden changes in activities can cause cramps.

What is the best way to make a cramp go away?

Usually the most effective steps are:

1. Gently stretch the affected muscle and hold for 20 seconds

2. Firmly, with slow strokes, massage the cramped muscle

3. Warm the muscle (warm towel, bath, or shower)

4. Drink water

When do I need to have cramps evaluated by a doctor?

If cramps become a persistent and recurring problem, see your doctor.

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