Your body is composed of several different types of muscle. The most common is known as skeletal muscle. These are the muscles in your body that are under your voluntary control and work together to move your skeleton and your body as a whole.
In order to prevent your muscles from cramping up, you have to understand what a muscle cramp is and how it can be prevented or treated.
What is a Muscle Cramp?
Your muscles work in pairs so that when one contracts the opposing muscle relaxes in order to create motion. But sometimes these voluntary muscles or muscle groups decide to act on their own accord, and this is when spasms and muscle cramps occur.
When one of these muscles contracts forcefully and doesn’t release, you’re experiencing a muscle cramp. If you get a quick or brief involuntarily contraction then that can be classified as a spasm. A muscle cramp can occur in any of your muscles but the most common sites for muscle cramps include your abdominal muscle groups and the leg muscles, specifically the calves (back of lower leg), hamstrings (back of upper leg) and quadriceps (front of upper leg).
What To Do About Muscle Cramps
There is a long list of reason’s why you may suffer a muscle cramp. Here’s a small sampling of some common causes:
- Overexertion during strenuous activity
- Maintaining an awkward position during sleep or rest
- Injury to a bone or muscle
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency
While the list above causes the majority of muscle cramps, they’re not the only culprits. When it comes to cramps caused from physical activity, one of the best ways to prevent yourself from sustaining them is to know your limits.
Get in touch with your body and don’t push yourself towards or past the point of exhaustion. In line with that, stay hydrated before and during your workout. While excessive fluid or food intake can also lead to cramping when working out, you need to maintain hydration throughout your body in order for it to function properly.
If you do get a cramp, you can take several approaches. Generally stretching the muscle or muscle group will help relieve the pain and the cramp. But, the muscle may cause too much pain if you try to stretch it yourself. In the case of a stubborn cramp, you can try taking a warm wash cloth and leaving it on the muscle, or even soaking in a bath. A gentle massage over the muscle should also help to relieve the pain
If none of these methods work, and especially if you repeatedly get a cramp in the same area, you may want to see a doctor as the cramp may be an indicator of a torn muscle or even a bone fracture.
Muscle cramps can be prevented and they can be treated, but that doesn’t diminish the pain, discomfort or inconvenience they can lead to. Arming yourself with the knowledge of what they are, what causes them and how you can deal with them however is more than half the battle.