Most of us would have had the experience of a sudden cramp in the calf halfway through sound sleep at night. Sometimes these cramps can get really painful, that it takes a while for your cramped muscles to feel normal again. Warm-up before a workout, drink plenty of water and try out some simple home remedies mentioned below to combat the painful cramps.
Why do you have muscle cramps?
Your muscles are made up of muscle fibers. These fibers are elastic in nature, so they can contract and expand based on your movement. Cramps happen when these muscle fibers contracts all of sudden unexpectedly. This sudden contraction usually happens as a result of stress or a chemical imbalance in your muscles. Sometimes it can also be triggered by certain drugs muscle cramps are very common among sportsmen, athletes, and older people. It is usually very harmless apart from the pain it triggers at the moment of its occurrence.
What are some common causes of muscle cramps
- Excessive stress and strain on muscles due to extreme workout sessions.
- Dehydration-induced by certain bodily conditions like diarrhea, vomiting, food poisoning, etc…
- Some types of medications.
- Calcium deficiency
Muscle cramps can also be induced by damage to your peripheral nerves. If you do not know about peripheral nerves, it is a network of 43 pairs of nerves that connects your brain and spinal cord. These nerves are attached to almost all the parts of your body. On rare occasions some of these nerves can get damaged due to various reasons, this disrupts the communication between the brain and the organ that is connected to the affected nerve. This leads to numbness, cramp, and weakness. We call this condition as peripheral neuropathy. Some of the common triggers of this condition include diabetes, thyroid problems, autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis.
How to Prevent it?
- Keep yourself hydrated. Your body loses a lot of salts and body fluids after an intense workout session in the form of sweat. It is necessary that you keep yourself properly hydrated so that your muscles stay properly lubricated.
- Warm-up your muscles before an intense workout or a sports session. Also, spend enough time to cool yourself down after an exhausting workout session.
- Never overwork your muscles with very intense workout sessions. Always follow the instructions from a professional trainer.
- If you experience frequent cramping at night, then try to do a little stretching before going to sleep.
- Whenever there is a cramp, try to relax your muscles with a gentle massage and stretch for immediate relief from pain.
- If you have a heating pad, try to warm up the cramped area with it. If you have cramped your calf muscles or foot, try to pour some warm water over it to soothe the pain and to relax the contracted muscles.
- Sometimes the cramps may not respond well to home remedies, in these cases, you might need some prescription medication from your Doctor such as quinine. However, quinine is well known for its serious side effects in some people. So only take it with Doctor’s advice.
When to seek Doctor’s Help?
Often times muscles cramps have no real reason for its occurrence. However, if you have it more frequently then it is better to consult a Doctor. Your doctor might advise for certain tests to single out the real reason behind your frequent cramps.
The link between Potassium and Cramps
- Many studies have revealed that potassium deficiency is directly linked to increased instances of muscle cramps. Our body cells need potassium for their normal functions. However, due to various reasons, your body cells could run short of this vital mineral.
- Regular use of certain drugs and medications that are used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems could induce potassium deficiency. These drugs are usually diuretic in nature, which gets rid of body fluids and along with with it the potassium.
- If you are using any of these medications and running low on potassium levels, then there is a high probability that you could get affected by muscles cramps. If so, then try to talk to your doctor and he may prescribe for a potassium supplement to make up for the loss.
- You could be running low on potassium due to diarrhea, vomiting, food poisoning, poor nutrition, and host of other reasons.
- If your tests reveal that you are running low on potassium on a regular basis, then try to follow up with your Doctor and go by his advice to get it back on track.
- Try to include foods that are rich potassium in your regular diet. Some of the best sources include avocado, banana, potatoes, spinach, beans, and citrus fruits.