Curejoy Expert James Dudley Explains:
A muscle cramp, also known as a ‘charley horse’ is an involuntary strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. It often occurs in the legs.
Another muscle cramp that is quite frequent is the ‘Nighttime leg cramp’ which are usually sudden spasms, or tightening, of muscles in the calf. The muscle cramps can sometimes happen in the thigh or the foot. They often occur just as you are falling asleep or waking up. Muscle cramps occur due to various reasons like exercising, injury, overuse of muscles, exposure to cold temperature or cold water, being dehydrated etc.
How to Prevent Muscle Cramps?
1. Massage: Stretch and massage the muscle.
2. Warm Shower: Take a warm shower or bath to relax the muscle. A heating pad placed on the muscle can also help.
3. Cold Pack: Try using an ice or cold pack. Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack.
4. Circulation: One of the best ways to quickly boost circulation is with the use of alternating hot and cold applications. Apply the cold application tightly for 10-15 seconds, then alternate with the hot application for 10-15 seconds. Repeat until you notice relief.
5. Stretch: While sitting, straighten your leg and flex your foot up toward your knee. It may help to place a rolled towel under the ball of your foot and, while holding the towel at both ends, gently pull the towel toward you while keeping your knee straight.
6. Alcohol: Limit or avoid alcoholic drinks.
7. Drink water: Drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, will often help leg cramps.
9. Exercise: Don’t increase your daily exercise suddenly and drastically, give your body enough time to acclimatize to your new schedule.
10. Dystonic cramps: Cramps that are induced by repetitive non vigorous activities can sometimes be prevented or minimized by careful attention to ergonomic factors such as wrist supports, avoiding high heels, adjusting chair position, activity breaks, and using comfortable positions and equipment while performing the activity. Learning to avoid excessive tension while executing problem activities can help. However, cramps can remain very troublesome for activities that are difficult to modify, such as playing a musical instrument.
If you have muscle cramps that keep coming back or are severe, you may have ‘restless legs syndrome’. Consult your doctor if your cramps occur very often, in severe pain that it interferes with your sleep as these may be pointers for a more severe disorder.