There’s nothing quite like laying in bed and, out of nowhere, LEG CRAMP! You’ve never gotten out of bed so fast, but never felt so helpless at the same time. Do you stretch? Walk it off?
If you’ve ever experienced any sort of body cramp, you know just how debilitating they can be. Your muscles tighten up and can last a few seconds up to 15 minutes – which can seem like a lifetime when you are in pain.
So what causes cramps? How do you prevent them? What should you do when they happen? Let’s dive in!
What is a muscle cramp?
According to Scripps, “Cramps are caused by muscle spasms – involuntary contractions of one or more muscles.” These spasms occur suddenly and can cause pain, however they typically resolve quickly. In some instances, the spasm is accompanied by a lump under the skin that can be seen by the naked eye. They most commonly occur in the leg, but can happen in other areas of the body including the feet, hands, abdomen, and back.
What causes muscles cramps? There are several reasons a muscle cramp occur, but are dependent on several factors including: which body part is affected, the surrounding environment, etc. These are, perhaps, the most common reasons you may suffer from muscles cramps.
Dehydration – When the amount of water that leaves the body is greater than what is being consumed, dehydration occurs. Things such as sweating, burns, and even diabetes cause the body to lose water and the cells of your muscles need water, along with other nutrients, to operate efficiently.
Overuse – Have you ever jumped into a more intense workout class or routine that you are used to and noticed your body responding negatively? When you change the intensity of your routine too quickly, your muscles can respond to the change by cramping. Additionally, if you go on a long run or bike ride, or do multiple workouts in a single day, the overexcited nerves send a message to the muscle to cramp.
Mineral Deficiencies – If you’ve ever participated in a sporting event and cramped up, you’ve probably been handed a banana (or in the old days – a salt packet). When our bodies are lacking important nutrients such as potassium, sodium, or magnesium, the body may cramp or spasm. These nutrients work to keep the body balanced – and spasm-free!
How do you prevent a muscle cramp?
Given the most common causes of cramps explained above, ways to prevent muscles cramps may now seem obvious.
Drink plenty of water – As we have all seen over the years, the recommended amount of water we are to intake changes. According to MayoClinic, “The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is: About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men & about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.” Of course, there are reasons to drink more (or less) water. As an example, if you are pregnant, the amount of exercise you partake in, the environment you live in, etc.
Take it easy & work up to harder workout – Avoid going all in at 110% as you work up to your harder workouts.
Eat nutritious foods - Yes! That means eating your veggies. If you can't stand the taste of vegetables, incorporate the appropriate supplements. Consult with your physician or a dietitian to discuss what nutrients you are missing from your diet.
What should you do when you are experiencing a cramp? It’s easy to feel helpless when you are experiencing a cramp. Here’s some steps to take to relieve your cramp.
Take a deep breath (or 5). Try to relax. Your muscles need the oxygen, too!
Drink some water. While it’s not always convenient to drink water in the middle of the night, your body may be telling you that you need water. Drink a glass of water before heading back to bed or activity.
Start to stretch. When it’s tolerable, try to stretch out the muscle – but not too deeply. Slowly work into a deeper stretch as the cramp subsides.
Try some mustard or pickle juice. We’ve heard from several of our clients that downing a packet of mustard or drinking some pickle juice works for them. If all else fails, maybe give it a try? We cannot say there is any medical evidence behind this – but hey! If it helps!
Muscle cramps are no joke! Implementing the above preventative tools can help, but it will take your body time to adjust. We hope the next time you experience a cramp, you are able to implement the above tools to overcome your cramp, quicker!