Do you know what causes muscle cramps, and how to relieve muscle cramps?

What causes muscle cramps? (Photo via Andrew Valdivia/Unsplash)
What causes muscle cramps? (Photo via Unsplash/Andrew Valdivia)

Have you ever wondered what causes muscle cramps? They're some of the painful sensations to experience, especially if you’re in the middle of an activity.

Of course, there are several reasons that cause muscle cramps and being aware of them can save you from experiencing excruciating pain when you least expect it. Find out what causes muscle cramps.


What are muscle cramps?

What are muscle cramps? (Photo via Unsplash/Afif Ramdhasuma)
What are muscle cramps? (Photo via Unsplash/Afif Ramdhasuma)

Before knowing about what causes muscle cramps, it’s important to understand what they are and what happens to the muscles when they happen.

A muscle cramp is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more muscles in the body. Cramps can occur in any muscle but are most commonly experienced in the legs, feet and calves.

Muscle cramps can be very painful and can last from a few seconds to several minutes. In some cases, cramps may be accompanied by twitching or spasms in the affected muscle. Cramps can also cause temporary weakness or stiffness in the affected area.

Muscle cramps can be caused by a variety of factors, including overuse of a muscle, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, nerve compression and medical conditions like multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries. They can also be a side effect of certain medications.

Almost all factors that causes muscle cramps can be treated with self-care measures like gentle stretching, massage or applying heat or cold to the affected area. In some cases, medications like muscle relaxants or pain relievers may be needed.

If you experience frequent or severe muscle cramps, it's important to consult your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.


What causes muscle cramps?

Muscles (Photo via Unsplash/Scott Webb)
Muscles (Photo via Unsplash/Scott Webb)

Here are some of the factors that will help you understand what causes muscle cramps:

Dehydration

Not having enough fluid in the body can cause muscle cramps, especially during exercise.

Electrolyte imbalance

Electrolytes like sodium, potassium and calcium are important for muscle function. An imbalance in these electrolytes can cause muscle cramps.

Overuse of muscles

Overusing or repeatedly straining a muscle can cause it to cramp.

Poor blood circulation

When blood flow to a muscle is restricted, it can cause muscle cramps.

Nerve compression

Pressure on a nerve can cause muscle cramps, especially in the legs and feet.

Medications

Certain medications, like diuretics, can cause electrolyte imbalance and lead to muscle cramps.

Medical conditions

Medical conditions like nerve damage, kidney disease and thyroid problems can cause muscle cramps.

Cold weather

Exposing muscles to cold temperatures can cause them to cramp.

Lack of stretching

Not stretching enough before or after exercise can cause muscle cramps.


Remedies of muscle cramps

Massage (Photo via Unsplash/alan caishan)
Massage (Photo via Unsplash/alan caishan)

Just knowing or understanding what causes muscle cramps will not be enough. Given the experience, it’s crucial to know how to relieve muscle cramps. Otherwise, the pain could become unbearable rather quickly.

Here are some ways that can help relieve muscle cramps:

Stretching

A gentle stretch of the affected muscle can help relieve the cramp. Slowly and gently stretch the muscle, holding the stretch for about 30 seconds.

Massage

Massaging the affected area can help increase blood flow to the muscle and provide relief.

Heat or cold therapy

Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation. Use a warm towel or heating pad for 20 minutes, or a cold pack wrapped in a towel for 10-20 minutes.

Hydration

Make sure to drink enough water and fluids to prevent dehydration, which can lead to muscle cramps.

Electrolyte replacement

If you experience muscle cramps due to electrolyte imbalance, you may need to replace the electrolytes in your body with sports drinks or supplements.

Medications

Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may provide relief from muscle cramps. Prescription muscle relaxants and other medications may be needed in more severe cases.

Prevention

Taking steps to prevent muscle cramps in the first place, like warming up before exercising, staying hydrated and stretching regularly, can be helpful.

Edited by Bhargav