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Muscle cramps. Ouch. We’ve all experienced them at least once in our lives. They always strike without warning and can last anywhere from seconds to minutes. Cramps really do stop you in your tracks. 
The most notorious sites for cramp are the calves, thighs, and feet. Cramps in the hands, arm, abdomen, and along the rib cage are also very common. 

What are muscle cramps? 

Muscle cramps result in continuous, involuntary, painful, and localised contraction of either an entire muscle group, individual single muscle or select muscle fibres. Generally, the cramp tends to last from seconds to a few minutes. 
Cramps that are associated with exercise are the most frequent and normally occur during or after physical activity. This could be down to two factors: dehydration and electrolyte imbalance or a peripheral neurological disorder. 
Approximately 37% of the population of over 60’s in the US experience night cramps, and the most affected area is the calf. These are also more common during pregnancy. Night cramps reduce sleep quality and the quality of life in those that experience them. These cramps normally ease with stretching the muscles that are involved. 

What are the causes of cramps? 

Muscle cramps can occur anywhere, anytime to anyone. Cramps could be caused by a number of different factors, e.g. 
• Muscle overuse/overload 
• Extreme fatigue 
• Dehydration 
• Muscle strain 
• Electrolyte imbalance 
• Neuromuscular causes 
• Exercising in hot/humid conditions 
• Large sweat losses 

How can I treat/prevent muscle cramps? 

There are a number of different treatments and preventions. Some are anecdotal, whereas others have been researched into but have never offered solid evidence that they do in fact work. 
Treatments for cramp: 
• Static stretching of the muscle affected 
• Fluid replacement (e.g. drinking fluids) 
• Ice/heat 
• Body position (changing position so the muscles are not in a shortened state) 
• Massage 
• Compression sleeves 
• Physical exercise 
• Weight loss 
Anecdotal treatments (no research around them) 
• Drinking sports drinks e.g. Lucozade 
• Adding salt/sodium to drinks 
• Drinking tonic water due to the Quinine in it 
Prevention of cramp: 
• Proper fluid intake (making sure fluid intake is around 2-3 litres per day) 
• Electrolyte balance 
• Decreasing exercise intensity 
• Body position (changing position so the muscles are not in a shortened state) 
• 1 litre of fluids prior to sports game/competition 
• Balanced diet 

Should I see a doctor about muscle cramps? 

Generally muscle cramps do not require medical attention. However, seek medical attention if you get cramps and they: 
• Cause severe discomfort 
• Are associated with leg swelling, redness, or skin changes 
• Are associated with muscle weakness 
• Happen frequently 
• Do not improve 
• Are not associated with obvious causes, such as strenuous exercise 
If any of these apply to you then it could be due to an underlying medical condition such as: 
• Blood supply issues 
• Nerve compression 
• Mineral depletion (not enough potassium, calcium, or magnesium). 
To discuss how Fire & Earth may be able to help you reduce your muscle cramps, please contact us. 
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